By Mark Hartley
I recently skimmed through a compilation of "best" blogs about the profession of medicine. One was titled, "Why doctors don't want to be doctors any longer."1 This blog, which was not written by a physician, heavily referred to information in an article written by a physician titled, "Top 10 reasons why physicians leave medicine."2
Does the boss in the dental setting -- the dentist -- have similar feelings about his or her chosen occupation? Probably, at least in some practices.
Before we discuss why physicians want a career change, we probably should ask a question that has been asked repeatedly for decades: Is it fair to compare dentists with physicians? I reviewed some fairly current student forums (2012 and 2013) where discussions persisted on whether dental school or medical school is the best career path. Generally speaking, the advice passed along portrayed the career of a dentist as offering a better lifestyle. Rather than dentistry being viewed as a life of ease, it was more of a matter of medicine being more stressful.
In February 2013, one potential student wrote, "I am considering dental at this point because it's only for four years, they make almost the same amount of money, and have less stress than doctors. More like they have a life compared to doctors."
Yes, this particular student persisted in the common habit of referring to physicians as doctors (dentists apparently are something else). Let's turn to a blog posted by the Academy of General Dentistry, which stated: "Some physicians may think and act like dentists are second-class citizens in the health-care world, but for the most part, they appreciate us. I also know some dentists that think they are physicians and walk around like they are doing brain surgery every day. Dentists and physicians are different animals, but both worthy of the title of Doctor."
One way they are different animals is the regulation primarily through third party reimbursement. While the boss is not immune to the headaches of dealing with insurance companies, it's generally agreed that it is a worse situation over in the medical sector. The medical blogs mentioned at the top of this note did address this lack of control over the business of medicine.
But the physician wrote, "Administrative regulations are at best irritating, but more often detrimental due to resulting inefficiency. Doctors are tired of being told what to do, and of no one listening."
A negative perception of health insurance is only a contributing factor behind why some physicians want to leave their careers (according to a 2013 survey, apparently a third say it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that they would leave). Some of the other factors include situations that dental employers may feel. Many dentists, for example, wish they could spend more time delivering care to patients, or wish they could better stay on top of related research within the professions -- desires shared by medical doctors too.
Perhaps the most interesting factor is that a community may have been served excellent restorative dental care by a doctor for many years, and yet the day does arrive when the interest in performing this service is no longer there. They are good dentists, who have performed solidly in caring for the patients who visit their practices. They realize one day, however, that they don't want to do it any more.
The physician, in her blog, noted, "This [stress] is particularly common among doctors who have had satisfying careers and feel that they have practiced medicine enough ... These doctors sense that they can contribute to society within the professional workforce ... prompts physicians to explore, and often succeed in, the non-clinical physician workforce."
We've certainly noticed dentists with second careers in dental manufacturing, consulting, continuing education, etc. All of this leads to a better understanding of our bosses in dentistry. Since dentists maintain a tighter control of their businesses, understanding these whims, though, is of little comfort to the staff members affected by career changes.
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