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Would you encourage your children to become doctors?

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why not to become a doctorNo one ever said being a doctor was easy. School and training go on seemingly forever; once graduation arrives, doctors work long hours and are faced with life-and-death decisions daily. But there were rewards. For decades, doctors earned hefty paychecks, had autonomy and respect. But those benefits are fading, and as a result, so is the number of doctors. Within the next 15 years, the United States will experience a shortage of between 90,000 to 200,000 physicians, according to the recently published "Will the Last Physician in America Please Turn Off the Lights: A Look at America's Looming Doctor Shortage".

Tara Weiss from lists a few reasons why not to become a doctor...

"We used to have a lot of respect for doctors, but now they seem like easy targets," says Phillip Miller, an author of Will the Last Physician in America Please Turn off the Lights. "There's a perception among patients that, 'I went to a doctor's appointment and he was 45 minutes late. He's probably on the golf course or driving his Mercedes.' The truth is, they're probably busy with patients."
The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that America needs a 30% annual increase in medical-school enrollment in order to keep up with need for doctors. In 2012, compared with 2002, medical-school enrollment will be up 21%.

Here are the reasons why not to become a doctor

Costs Of Practice Rise, Reimbursements Drop

Over the next nine years, Medicare (which provides health coverage to one-third of Americans) plans to cut payments to physicians about 40%, while practice costs will increase 20%, according to the American Medical Association. The first changes take effect as soon as July, when the government program reduces its reimbursement rate to doctors by 10.6%. The next cut will come in January, when rates will be sliced by another 5%. These changes aren't occurring in a vacuum--other insurers tend to follow Medicare's lead.

Rising Malpractice Costs And Frivolous Lawsuits

When malpractice lawsuits go to juries, the defendant wins 91% of the time, according to the AMA. But the average case takes about four years run its course--and that's a very expensive four years. The average defense costs $94,284. As a result, it's become quite expensive to be in the medical malpractice industry. It's so expensive, in fact, that in 2001, one of the biggest malpractice providers, St. Paul, Minn.-based Travelers Companies, left the field, saying they couldn't afford to stay in the industry. Many states are establishing laws to protect doctors from frivolous lawsuits. Texas wrote tort reform into its constitution after its citizens voted it into law. Since tort reform was enacted in the state in 2004, the yearly premium doctors pay in Texas for malpractice insurance dropped by 40%. Also, the number of claims filed against doctors has dropped by about half.

School Debt

It's more expensive to go to medical school now than ever. The median cost of tuition and fees has increased by 165% in private medical schools and by 312% in public medical schools since 1984, according to a 2004 study done by the American Association of American Medical Colleges. As a result, the average medical school graduate is carrying more than $130,000 in debt, according to the association.


As costs continue to increase and reimbursement rates are lower, salaries are decreasing. The average physician's net income, adjusted for inflation, declined 7% from 1995 to 2003, according to The Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan policy research organization that studies the U.S. health care system to inform the thinking and decisions of policymakers in government and private industry. The most lucrative specialties--radiology, oncology, anesthesia and dermatology--require the most training, and that means many physicians can't pay off their student loans and earn a substantial paycheck until well into their 30s.

Decreased Autonomy

Doctors say their decisions in treating patients are significantly affected by whether insurance companies will pay for treatments and procedures, a frustration that makes them think twice about the profession. A survey by the medical staffing firm Merritt, Hawkins and Associates of doctors age 50 and over found that more than half of those doctors--52%--are less satisfied now, compared with five years ago.

On-Call Responsibilities

There are several reasons doctors are frustrated by the amount of time spent at work. It's partly a generational and cultural shift: Work-life balance is one of the most important issues for the last several generations to enter the workplace. Unlike their parents and grandparents, younger generations in the workforce demand flexible schedules so they can spend less time in the office and more time enjoying their families and social lives. Doctors are no different than their counterparts in other industries. A 2006 survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges found that 71% of physicians under age 50 say time for their families and personal lives is the most important thing when it comes to lifestyle. Add to that the growing number of female doctors entering medicine--more than half of all medical students are women. When they take maternity leave, their colleagues often take on their workload, including their nights on call at the hospital.

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