How Doctors Celebrate Independence Day—They Don’t


It’s July 4th! All across the country, Americans are celebrating freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Families and friends are relishing potato salad, apple pie, barbecues and parades. 

Is your doctor decked out in red, white, and blue enjoying fireworks from his yacht? Probably not. 

Have you seen any medical students waving little flags? Unlikely. 

The truth is American medicine has little to do with liberation or independence. July 4th is just another day of captivity and confinement for most American doctors—and nearly all medical students.

Once upon a time all doctors were independent—until recently. My parents were both solo docs. Now most physicians are salaried factory workers practicing assembly-line medicine.

In fact, 9 out of 10 doctors wouldn’t recommend medicine as a profession.

Why? Here are a few factoids.

Pages in US tax code: 74,608

Pages of Medicare regulations by which physicians must abide: > 132,000 

Current number of diagnostic and procedure codes doctors must know: 17,000

Number of ICD-10 codes docs are responsible: >140,000.

Percent of working hours doctors spend on non-patient-related paperwork: 22 %

Percent of working hours doctors spend on patient-related paperwork: > 60% 

Percent of time doctors spend looking at computers instead of patients: 40%

Percent of working hours new doctors spend face-to-face with patents: 12% 

Which is how many minutes per patient: 8 

Hourly income for solo psychiatrist (my mom) in 1970s: $120

Hourly income for employed family doc today: < $65

Current student loan debt load for many med students: > 300K

Number of Americans who will lose their doctors to suicide in 2015: > 1,000,000

In the land of live free or die, some chose death. 

I considered it.

Until I decided to live free as a solo doc.

Join me this July 4th to declare your independence.

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Pamela Wible, M.D., is a family physician and pioneer in the ideal medical care movement. She hosts physician retreats to help her colleagues reclaim their lives and careers. Dr Wible has been named 2015 Women Leader in Medicine.

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10 comments on “How Doctors Celebrate Independence Day—They Don’t
  1. Michelle says:

    Hi, Pam.
    Does your solution work for subspecialists?
    I am a pediatric cardiologist in New Mexico. I was a professor in the academic world ( swimming with sharks) then jumped into a private practice owned by a mega corporation…
    I am 56 and just surviving. I cannot come to your retreat in October…
    Michelle g

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Yep! Here’s an FAQ that gives basic philosophy below. I know psychiatrists, orthopods, neurologists who have employed this model. Also had hospitalists, anesthesiologists, radiologists at the retreat. There is a lot that we can do to improve our work conditions even if we don’t launch independent ideal practices.

      Free FAQ for docs. Just reach out.

      10-pages of the most frequent questions on how to open an ideal clinic. Enjoy!

  2. karuna says:

    Happy Fourth to You Pamela! Big hugs. love Karuna

  3. Leslie Relle says:

    Thank you for being a friend. Happy July.

  4. Susan says:

    As patients how can we encourage more doctors to become independent and thereby better partners in our healthcare? I find the current medical model terrifying…
    Thanks for your work!

  5. Pamela Scheurich says:

    Holidays were made for other people to enjoy. I have to work. And soon after to mourn the loss of another friend to suicide, Dr. Ted Westover.

  6. Roger Chron says:

    I’ve read, elsewhere, that the annual rate of suicide for U.S. doctors is 300 (in 2003). I was wondering what data was used and what the equation looked like for the statistic of 1 million patients losing their doctor in 2015. I’m a biology major in MN, and contemplating going into medicine. Thanks!

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