The Gen Y Physician

photo: Sura Nualpradid,

Do Gen Y physicians want more by doing less? Are they less dedicated than prior generations? I read an article written by a physician that put this group in a less-than-positive light.

I have heard similar observations from a colleague who practices in an academic environment. We often comment on advances in pharmaceuticals, procedures, imaging, and public policy. But there have been cultural shifts in the practice of medicine as well: a move away from paternalism, more collaboration between specialties and teamwork with other physicians, and work-life balance for physicians, for example. While I would agree with some aspects of the aforementioned post, there are a few things to consider.

 The “working to live” trend is not limited to healthcare. This appears to be a common philosophy among the young adults in this country who grew up with parents who labored with one or more jobs or overtime while sacrificing time with family. Perhaps this explains why we see many young, intelligent women choose to stay home rather than work. Or why people work at home rather than in the office.

Other factors have helped to mold the current and up-and-coming generation of healthcare providers who are being criticized in this post. For example, the general public, the media, and the healthcare industry, itself, have minimized the role of the physician. They no longer perceive physicians as “gods” (a title that was unlikely self-described by the members of this profession). When insurance companies that are run by nonmedical administrators dictate the rules of practice and larger physician offices are run by – again – nonmedical administrators that want more productivity, it creates a factory-like environment. Read: hamster on the wheel. Furthermore, the utilization of midlevels (who can earn more per hour than physicians, if you take into account taking call and working on weekends) in the healthcare industry, while quite helpful and valuable, also creates a sense that physicians are potentially dispensable.

There are now more female physicians graduating from medical schools than 10-20 years ago. They typically play many more roles than the role of physician. They often do not have the luxury of staying late at the office  – and, yes, I view it as a luxury – because they may have to pick children up from daycare and make dinner and take care of household duties while husbands stay late at their own jobs. Women have entered into previously male-dominated professions faster than the societal expectations of their roles could practically adjust to take that into account.

Whether we admit it or not, a lack of balance in our lives does translate into our interaction with others. We have often seen or heard of a disgruntled physician interact less than ideally with a patient. As the healthcare industry becomes more customer-service oriented, this would be detrimental. Sometimes finding balance does not align with the Type A expectations of our peers. But I am doubtful that any physician would risk being negligent in order to make it to a soccer game.  

Lastly, I would like to suggest that physicians who are concerned about the work ethic of the next generation of physicians consider being role models or mentors to them, as my friend in academic medicine does. Having a relationships with our peers (regardless of age) is essential for mutual support and can also help younger physicians grow into professionals with excellent work ethics.


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