Friday, October 1, 2010

Physician advocate

My husband asked me a question that I thought was very true today. He said that there are a ton of patient advocate groups. Different places where patients can go if they feel they have been treated wrongly, and launch a complaint. But what about physicians? There doesn't seem to be any kind of organization which fills the same role for us. No one cares.
The only group that has any semblance of that is the CMPA (Canadian Medical Protection Agency), and personally I don't find them helpful. Oh yeah, they are really good when it comes to defending us in court (most often they win, and if they don't think they can, they settle), but they are not very touchy-feely. The one time that I had to contact them about a case that I thought had gone wrong (through no fault of my own, as I was a resident), all they told me was "not to talk to anyone about this". There I was a first year resident feeling afraid and alone, and terrible about the outcome, and that was all they could say? Thanks. Thanks a lot.
So why is that? Do patients really not value what we do? I don't believe that is the case. Are all physicians so bad? I don't believe that either. Or is it our system of a mostly non-litiginous based society (versus the States), where patients feel they need someone to complain to because they don't want to take it all the way to the courts? I don't know, but it doesn't sit well with me.
We work hard. We have given up the best years of our lives studying and working hard to become the best physicians we can in order to give our patients the best care. In the years where my other friends were getting married, having babies, and beginning to advance in their careers, I was stuck in a classroom for 8 hours a day, and then would study for at least another 4 more. And no, not for the average 3-5 years it takes for most people to get a degree, but for 14 years! OK, sure I am whining now. Was it worth it in the end? Sure. Am I happy doing what I am doing? Absolutely. And I wouldn't change it for the world.
But really, when someone who is SO good at their jobs gets a complaint from a patient (and farther up even) that was in NO WAY below the standard of care, that is just sad. No, this wasn't me who had the complaint launched, but I feel for that person. I feel like we really give up a lot for our patients (long years, long days, long hours, lack of sleep, lack of any kind of recognition), and we all do it willingly for THEM. So, really, where are OUR advocates?!

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