It’s not news to anyone that physicians in the U.S. make good money. Even the lowest paid specialties are at the upper end of the pay spectrum. But should doctors make a lot of money? Most of my colleagues would say yes, but I’m sure there is a fair amount of resentment of our salaries, especially if one is not well off financially and must pay some hefty doctors’ bills. That person wouldn’t look kindly on the physician speeding by in their Lexus or Cadillac.
On the one hand, doctors can make a good case for their high salaries. It takes a lot of education and training to become a physician, and our jobs carry a pretty big responsibility. If anyone is going to make a big salary, shouldn’t it be the people who deal with health and, sometimes, true life and death issues? Besides, certain attorneys, business people, and entertainers make a lot of money, and it’s hard to say they deserve it more than we. And don’t even get me started about professional athletes.
But still….in almost all instances where a patient has to pay a bill, it is a relatively poorer person giving money to a relatively richer person. Usually I’m insulated from the money collecting aspect, letting the hospital do that while I receive a salary, but not always. I got a letter once from the mother of a baby we took care of in the NICU. Her baby was doing fine, but she asked if we would forgo the last $600 of her bill. Her blue collar family had struggled to pay most of the bill but now were stuck. My heart almost bled when I read that. Here I was, able to buy almost any clothes I want, or able to dine out at a nice restaurant whenever I want without having to hardly think about the cost, taking money from this family.
Sometimes at work we have quiet days, where I have time to sit in my office and read or relax, and it seems almost criminal to be getting money for this. But other times are different. When you’re standing at the bedside of a baby with dangerously low oxygen saturations (low levels of oxygen in their blood), and you’ve done everything you can think of to raise them, and the parents are sitting there looking at you waiting for you to make their baby better – then we’re deserving every penny we get.