Physician Perspectives: Elizabeth Nelson

March 21, 2019
Elizabeth Nelson, MD

“I put care before profits.”

[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 like being a physician. I am happy with my selection of obstetrics and gynecology as a specialty, as it allows me to provide preventive care and routine care and perform surgical procedures.

As I prepare for retirement after more than 40 years in practice, I am saddened to think I will never see some of my patients again, some of whom I have known for decades. I often care for three generations of a family. However, I will not miss the headaches that often come with being a physician.

Medicine is more stressful these days. For the third time in my career, I am learning a new EHR platform. That is currently a big source of stress. Prior authorizations are another. I am willing to fight for my patients and will go to external appeal for them, if necessary, despite no reimbursement for the extra time and effort. I do it because it is the right thing to do. I put care before profits.

Practicing medicine is less financially lucrative than when I first started, but the emotional rewards are still great. It’s a privilege to be able to impact patients’ current lives and their future, hopefully for the better.

I often say I am a dinosaur because I talk with and examine patients, order studies as necessary, and plan a course of action. My own physicians today do a limited exam with me while I am fully clothed and a review lab tests with little history or interaction. I was taught that if you listen to the patient, they will tell you what is wrong.

I am not happy with the direction medicine is headed. I am not certain I could recommend this career path to anyone else, either. My daughter entered the medical field as a veterinarian. She does not experience much of the same hassles as me. Instead, she has the joy of caring for patients and impacting their and their owners’ lives, the way practicing medicine used to be.

Elizabeth Nelson, MD, is an OB-GYN practicing in Orlando, Fla.