Medicine Nonfiction Observations Policy Systems


My cohort graduated from our psychiatry residency almost ten years ago. The level of frustration and disappointment we’ve all experienced within the past two years is striking.

Some have taken leadership roles, only to relinquish them because of fatigue from fruitless discussions with administrators. Others have tried to alert senior managers about dangerous and irresponsible clinical practices. Their efforts were unsuccessful because concerns about finances trumped concerns about clinical services. With a bad taste in their mouths they resigned from their positions. Still others have tried to convince senior administrators about why certain clinical services are necessary. Though these clinical services save money across systems, they do not generate revenue for any specific organization.

“Just keep quiet and keep doing what you’re doing,” they hear from a few senior managers who are sympathetic to their efforts. “Maybe you can stay under the radar that way.”

One had the job duties of three positions. This physician asked for help after recognizing that this workload wasn’t sustainable. The administrators repeatedly said no. And, yet, when this physician finally resigned, the administrators split the single position into three.

“It’s like no one cares about about human suffering. It’s always about money.”

Some have become medical directors, only to learn that senior leadership expect a rubber stamp of agreement from them as figureheads to help change the behaviors of medical staff. Many of their clinical recommendations go unheeded because mandates from policy advisors and economists have primacy. For-profit corporations value profit over patients and seek the counsel only of their shareholders.

They have noticed that administrators often value the “medical doctor” credential for their reports over the clinical expertise of the person with the credential. They recognize that they are often not invited to certain meetings because some administrators do not want to hear what they have to say. They thought that they could offer specialized knowledge to proactively improve systems, but they learned that systems only react to audits.

We all sit around the table, the occasional fork clinking against plates holding desserts. No one talks because no one knows what to say. If we’re all experiencing this across different clinical settings and organizations, what encouragement could we offer?

What do we say to our patients?