[Editor’s Note: One of Physicians Practice’s questions for the Great American Physician survey asks physicians to rate how they feel about the practice of medicine. We invited survey participants to explain their answers in a personal essay.]
I graduated medical school in 1982, and I still enjoy being a family medicine physician and going to work each day. I feel that I get to make a difference in so many people's lives.
The doctor-patient relationship is still the most rewarding aspect of being a physician. Each day, there is at least one encounter that makes my day worthwhile, either because it was challenging from a medical standpoint, or it was an interesting interaction, or I could see the difference that my care had made in another person's life.
Probably one of the best decision's that I made, which has allowed me to continue to enjoy medical practice, was borne out of necessity. While in medical school, I accepted the military health professions scholarship. The military paid for my medical school in exchange for several years of service.
I ended up serving 23 years active duty and then took a civilian position with the military upon my retirement. In addition to taking care of wonderful patriotic people, I have been free from the majority of the hassles that plague medical practice today.
I don't have to worry about billing anyone or whether they can afford their care. I have heard of MIPS but have no idea what it is since it doesn't impact me. We have been using some sort of electronic health record (EHR) system since 1991, so the recent costs and concerns of implementing an EHR have not impacted my practice in any way.
I also don't have to worry about prior authorizations. I consider being an active duty physician and then a civilian physician working for the military about as pure a medical practice as is possible today, aside from concierge medicine or direct pay medicine. While I still disagree with many of the mandates imposed on physicians, such as maintenance of certification, my day-to-day practice is predominantly free of those concerns.
I would highly recommend my career path to others who are considering a medical career. I would not recommend becoming a physician to those who would pursue a traditional practice. Dealing with the multitude of insurance carriers, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Joint Commission isn’t worth it. Outside the military, I feel that the government has ruined the joy of practicing medicine.
William R. Laurence, MD, practices family medicine in Fayetteville, N.C.