Six Biggest Gripes of Employed Doctors

Kenneth J. Terry, MA

Disclosures

March 02, 2011

In This Article

Introduction

Victoria Rentel, a family physician in Columbus, Ohio, joined a hospital-owned group several years ago. At first, nearly everything went fine. There were a few glitches: she'd occasionally order tests or consults at competing facilities, either for patient convenience or because of health plan coverage. When the hospital's administrators found out, they told her it was a violation of her contract; but that didn't stop her because she knew the hospital never enforced this provision.

Four years after Rentel took the job, the administration praised her financial performance and promised to expand her solo practice by bringing in more physicians and adding more office space.

Then, out of the blue, she was informed that the hospital was going to close her practice within 45 days. She knew this wasn't her fault; the recession had hit the hospital hard, and it was laying off nearly half of the primary care doctors in her group. Still, it was a hard pill to swallow.

Making matters worse, her contract's noncompete clause prohibited her from going to work for any of the other healthcare systems in town. To avoid legal sanctions, she joined the student health service at Ohio State University.

Would she ever work for a hospital again? "I never say 'never' anymore. But if I did, I'd go into it with my eyes wide open and with much more due diligence than I did before."

Many other physicians -- especially those who, like Rentel, were previously in private practice -- complain about their jobs. In some cases, it's because physicians rushed into the arms of a hospital without looking carefully at their contracts or asking the right questions during their job interviews.

Older doctors are as apt to make this mistake as young ones, physician recruiters say. But doctors fresh out of residency expect to work for a hospital or a medical group, so they're less likely to complain about working conditions or compensation, notes Gary Matthews, a healthcare management consultant in Atlanta.

Ultimately, the loss of control over their own professional lives is what irks employed doctors the most if they used to be in private practice. But some doctors also get the sinking feeling that they've become cogs in the corporate machine.

"The reality is that when you work for a hospital system, you're a service line," says Rentel. "And because primary care reimbursement is relatively low, you're a service line that feeds more lucrative service lines."

Following are the 6 biggest gripes of employed physicians, according to consultants, recruiters, and doctors.

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