Blurred Lines

No, this is not about Robin Thicke stealing Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up”. My blogs are typically filled with trends or statistics to attempt to sway a hospital decision maker my way to get their business. Not this time. It’s about the disturbing change in the nomenclature in today’s healthcare environment and the label “provider”.

I have been in the physician recruiting business for nearly 40 years and grew up in a small town where physicians were highly respected members of the community. I grew up with their children who had everything — swimming pools, motorcycles, sports cars, nice vacations out of the reach of most of us, you name it — everything. What I didn’t see very often were their physician fathers at home. That’s because they were likely working 12 or 14-hour days and on-call most of the time. Not because of the money, but because their patients needed them.

Fast forward to 2017. With today’s physicians, yes the whole work/life balance issue has come into play and many physicians are opting for much different careers than their predecessors with 7 day stretches off and jobs with no night or weekend call. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same level of respect, nor does it justify for them to be demeaned by now being labeled “providers”. It is disrespectful and most physicians in the work setting really want to be called “Doctor”. The worst offenders are insurance companies, government stakeholders and to some extent hospitals that employ physicians. It is a way to “blur the lines” for the patient, so when they are moved through the system to an NP or PA, it doesn’t matter as much to the them.

Most importantly, it devalues the profession and completely discounts the 8-12 years of hard work and long hours required to get through medical school, residency, fellowship and board certification exams. NPs and PAs don’t like being called “mid-levels” because it implies the care they provide is something less than “high-level”. By the same token physicians shouldn’t be lumped into the “provider” category.

As a physician, when you are emailed by an administrator referring to you and your colleagues as “providers” — correct them immediately. If you don’t, that is what you shall be. If you do any work with agencies or contract groups and you hear or see the term “provider”, you should re-evaluate the relationship. Chances are they are going to treat you the same as they would any other healthcare worker they send out to a client facility without any real appreciation for what it is that you do and what you had to go through to get where you are.