HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

As Crisis Hits, Women in the Lead – While Compensation Lags.

Posted on | November 18, 2020 | No Comments

Mike Magee

This morning, we witnessed the unusual appearance on network television of two national leaders of the professions of Nursing and Medicine, Dr. Susan Bailey (President, AMA) and Debbie Hatmaker (Chief Nursing Officer, ANA) – both women – appearing in tandem and together, describing the nation’s condition as “very grim” and “quite stark.”

As we struggle to control a second wave of Covid-19, we are reminded once again of the nurses and doctors who place themselves at risk willingly and consistently. And while our attention over the past months has centered on emergency departments and intensive care units, it’s important to remind ourselves that our system of care (where it exists) relies heavily on a primary care base for access to both standard and emergency evaluation and treatment.

In a Medscape physician survey just released today, the financial impact of Covid-19 has been significant. As the report says, “Many physicians offices have closed or have greatly reduced their hours. Hospitals, clinics, and large groups throughout the nation are laying off staff and cutting salaries. Specialties that relied upon elective procedures have lost much or most of their business.”

During the first wave of the pandemic, physician practices reported a 55% decline in revenue and a 60% decrease in patient volume. In March of 2020 alone, 43,000 healthcare workers were laid off nationwide, and nearly 1 in 10 practices closed their doors, at least temporarily.  Picking up some of the slack, reimbursable virtual patient visits increased 225%.

The annual Medscape compensation survey was pre-Covid (October 4, 2019 – February 10, 2020), and included over 17,000 surveys in over 30 specialties. In Family Medicine, on average there was a slight $3000 raise  (from $231,000 to $234,000) over the prior year. The average time spent per week with patients was similar – 38 hours for men and 35 hours for women Family Physicians. A third of all Family Medicine doctors are now women. Yet the gender gap in salary is striking, with males earning 26% more than women.

The majority of Family Physicians (71%) now work with a team that includes either a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Physician’s Assistant (PA). Having these teams has increased the profitability of half the practices, and had a neutral effect on 45% of their businesses.

2/3’s of Family Medicine doctors would chose the same career path again, reporting that the three top sources of their job satisfaction are: 1) Gratitude/relationships with patients, 2) Knowing I’m making the world a better place by helping others, 3) Being very good at what I do/ Finding answers, diagnoses.

ANA surveys of nurse satisfaction levels roughly mirror the same determinants. In both professions, these women and men are physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.

What can we do to help them?

  1. Give Thanks: Expressing gratitude is always welcome. But perhaps the best way to express this in 2020 is to limit gatherings around Thanksgiving, What we don’t need at the moment is super-acceleration of an already bad situation.
  2. Drop the Political BS. The election is over, and going mask-less in meaningless, and dangerous. Be a good citizen. Wear your mask and a smile.
  3. Be Patient and Compliant. We’ve got vaccines on the way. But we have a few months to go. When they arrive, get vaccinated without delay.

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