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Are doctors really earning less?

It's been a good while since I asked my last question. I am now almost done with my A levels and will hopefully be in medical school for my MBBS degree next year. While I am not pursuing medicine for the pay, but rather because it is a true passion of mine and something I would be delighted to do for the rest of my life, I've always considered the high wage as somewhat of compensation for all the sacrifices doctors make. Weekends and youth spent studying instead of partying, and adulthood spent in incredibly stressful situations, literally holding the life of others in our palms, the extra cash seemed deserved.

But recently I am hearing of doctors in the West being overworked and underpaid, and the NHS crumbling as patient management is outsourced to clerks with insufficient medical training. If there is anyone who works as a professional doctor or surgeon in a hospital, please do feel free to share your experience in your workplace- whether to confirm or dispel the rumour. It would be of major help to a med student just starting out.

Of course, I feel obliged to say that even if I would be getting paid lower, I won't change my mind. I feel that servicing others through medicine is the best thing I can do with my life, and I would be glad to.

Thank you!

Thank you comment icon Hi Divya! It's heartwarming to see that you've returned to CareerVillage to ask a follow-up question. We LOVE to see it! Previously, you were asking for guidance for your A-levels, and now you're almost done. Keep up the good work! We're so happy you're progressing along your educational and professional path. Wishing you continued success!! yoonji KIM, Admin

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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Divya !

Wow. Your question is so outstanding and heart warming, even though I am not a doctor, I am eager to respond with some thoughts and advice. It is so thoughtful that you have expressed that, despite what you have heard, you will not give up pursuing a most honorable career in medicine. You are to be applauded !

It is always inspiring to learn about the different medical systems in different countries. In your country, it is governed by The Supreme Council of Health and in America we are governed by the American Medical Association. Both of our countries have seen many changes in the past few years. From what I have read, Qatar has implemented more of an Interprofessional Educational system and that your medical system has the highest spending in the Middle East. Your country's statistics all look favorable and promising.

In the U.S., there are very strict requirements for health care workers. Some are doctors, some are nurses with the appropriate degrees and certifications and licenses. Some other medical professionals have college degrees and some have technical training with certifications. Unqualified people are not hired in our medical system. Even Social Workers who are clinical therapists need certification to practice with patients.

If an unqualified lay person is found to have been working on a person, it is considered a crime in the U.S. and there's usually a report announced on the news about it. I very rarely if at all hear of anything of that nature in the North East Region of the U.S. Very infrequently there are reports mostly about a lay person secretly performing reconstructive surgery or procedures on someone for physical feature modification or augmentation. But it's very rare although it does happen.

I do not work in a hospital or such, but from what I am hearing and seeing, we have a great amount of doctors and nurses and the medical and nursing schools are full of students. We have also had Telemedicine here in the United States for a while now which is growing in popularity for non-emergency type situations. The thing about the United States is that it is so huge and there are so many hospitals, each hospital is different in their protocol, mission and arrangements. Some hospitals could be overcrowded with patients while some hospitals are very manageable. So, you see, it depends on where the hospital is, a major city, the suburbs, rural areas. There are miracles worked as well as failures in all professions and the health care system in any country has it's good attributes as well as it's challenges. Try not to let rumors deter your motivation and inspiration for a career in the health field.

I'd like to mention that I know of some doctors - not too many- who have gone what they call "private pay". They have broken ties with the insurance companies, have their own practice and their fees to the patients are quite low. This is how our system was many, many decades ago. The doctors love it because they get to spend a lot of time with their patients and the doctors get support from their community in the way of donations of supplies and whatever people want to help out with.

I do hope this has been a help and I wish you the very best in your studies ! You will become an important medical professional who will make a difference in so many people's lives !
Thank you comment icon I appreciate the input from a different perspective! I do see myself practicing in a hospital in the city mostly, as that's where I've been my entire life. If you don't mind, would you let me know of the practicing conditions in the UK and Australia? As I do not plan to come back to Qatar to practice for a good while and would prefer to work in these countries instead. Thank you so much for the kind words as well! <3 Divya
Thank you comment icon You are very welcome, Divya, and I am glad I could contribute to your original questions ! Have an awesome day ! Michelle M.
Thank you comment icon @JAROD CHUNG - THANK YOU ! Michelle M.
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Rita’s Answer

I am a family practice physician. I owned my own office for about 20 years and then sold my practice about 2 years ago. That company in turn sold the practice to another company.

When I opened my own practice, you negotiate a rate that you will be paid depending on if the patient is new or existing and the level of complexity of the visit. You are also paid a set rate for physicals. These codes are called CPT codes that you submit to the insurance to get paid. The problem when I worked for myself is that those rates usually did not increase the last 20 years I practiced. Unfortunately, the employees I hired, utilities, rent etc did increase so each year, you need to see more patients to make the same amount of money.

It's because of this that several private practicing doctors are going into conciere medicine. This is a situation in which the patient has to pay extra ($3000/year) to the doctor to be seen. The doctor only sees a certain number of patients because not everyone can afford this cost and they are not rushed when seeing patients.

If you work for a company, there is a going rate, they will pay you. Because there is a shortage of doctors, I think that's where you can negotiate your pay. It's all about supply and demand. If there are less doctors, they will need to pay you more if they want to keep the doctors.

As a physician, you are considered highly compensated but we usually put in long hours. First you need to see the patients on the schedule. Next, you need to refill medications and review documents. Then, there are telephone calls and questions all the time. These usually are done on your own time.

It's a long and hard road. Good luck!!
Thank you comment icon Thank you for sharing your perspective. Divya
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hi Divya,

Are doctors truly seeing a dip in their earnings?

Lately, there's been a surge of worry regarding the pay and work conditions of those in the medical field, especially in the West. This has sparked debates on whether doctors are genuinely experiencing a decrease in income and encountering hurdles in their profession. To fully understand this issue, it's crucial to look at several elements that affect doctors' pay, such as regional variations, healthcare system models, and the shifting landscape of the medical profession.

Differences in Doctors' Earnings Across Regions

Doctors' incomes can greatly differ depending on the region and country they practice in. For instance, in the U.S., factors like geographical location, specialization, and experience can affect physicians' salaries. As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2020, the median yearly wage for physicians and surgeons stood at $208,000. However, this figure can vary based on whether the physician is employed by a hospital or healthcare organization or runs a private practice.

On the other hand, doctors practicing in other countries may face different pay structures. In the United Kingdom, for example, National Health Service (NHS) doctors' salaries are set by a pay scale system that takes into account seniority and specialty. While NHS doctors have grappled with issues related to workload and resource limitations, their earnings are structured within the public healthcare system's framework.

How Healthcare System Structures Affect Doctors' Pay

The structure of a country's healthcare system can significantly influence doctors' compensation. In countries with primarily public healthcare systems, like the UK or Canada, doctors' salaries are often set by government-regulated pay scales. This can lead to perceived income disparities compared to peers in private healthcare systems.

In contrast, in countries with mainly private healthcare systems or a mix of public and private sectors, such as the U.S., doctors' earnings can be shaped by market forces and negotiations with insurance companies and healthcare organizations. This can cause variations in pay based on factors like patient demographics, insurance coverage, and fee-for-service models.

Changing Trends in Doctors' Earnings

In recent times, there's been a growing focus on issues like physician burnout, administrative burdens, and shifting reimbursement models. These factors have fueled debates on whether doctors are facing difficulties related to their earnings and overall job satisfaction.

Physician burnout has been associated with long work hours, administrative duties, and the emotional stress tied to patient care. Additionally, changes in reimbursement models have led some doctors to perceive a drop in income due to the shift towards value-based care and alternative payment models.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has added extra pressure on healthcare systems across the globe. This has sparked debates about the pandemic's impact on doctors' pay and work conditions, especially for frontline healthcare workers who have faced increased demands and risks during the crisis.

In Conclusion

To wrap up, while views differ on whether doctors are earning less, it's clear that numerous factors influence the pay and work conditions of medical professionals. Regional differences, healthcare system dynamics, changing trends in medicine, and external factors like global health crises all play a part in shaping the landscape for doctors' earnings.

It's crucial for those considering a career in medicine to understand these complexities. While a passion for medicine continues to be a key motivator for many entering the field, understanding the broader context of doctors' compensation can offer valuable insights into the realities they might face.

Top 3 Authoritative Reference Publications or Domain Names Used in Answering this Question:

World Health Organization (WHO) - The WHO offers comprehensive data and reports on global health trends and healthcare systems.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics - The BLS provides authoritative information on employment statistics and wage data for various occupations.
National Health Service (NHS) - The NHS website offers insights into the structure of public healthcare systems and policies related to doctors' compensation in the UK.
These sources were used to gather factual information regarding regional disparities in doctors' earnings, healthcare system dynamics, changing trends in medicine, and external factors impacting doctors' compensation.

Stay blessed,
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice, James! Much appreciated. Divya
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Waseem’s Answer

Hi it depends upon the country local laws for practice and the type of doctors.