Dr. Alexander, who is part of the hospitalist group in Oregon who organized a doctors’ union, gets to the heart of the issue on why doctors need to fight back. In a recent article in the New York Times, Dr. Alexander and his fellow doctors discuss the central issue- professional judgment or professional autonomy.
“Dr. Alexander and his colleagues say they are in favor of efficiency gains. It’s the particular way the hospital has interpreted this mandate that has left them feeling demoralized. If you talk to them for long enough, you get the distinct feeling it is not just their jobs that hang in the balance, but the loss of something much less tangible — the ability of doctors everywhere to exercise their professional judgment.”
In short, as Dr. Brittany Ellison says, “We’re trained to be leaders, but they treat us like assembly line workers.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise for the hospital system where the doctors organized is its refusal to believe that money was not their key issue. According to the Times the doctors “preferred to work less and make less to avoid burnout, which was bad for them and worse for patients. At which point the administration responded that money was always the issue, according to several people in the room. (The hospital declined to comment.)”
This cynicism coming from hospital management is sad but not surprising. Increasingly doctors are viewed by hospitals as cogs whose only concern is money. We are glad the doctors formed a union to protect their patients and the profession.