Power accrues from many different sources. In our current environment of inter-professionalism and increased cooperation, we are confronted daily with how different kinds of power can complement each other. What is far less often considered is how those with one kind of power can be rendered almost powerless in another context. Doctors are undoubtedly powerful in many ways. According to multiple surveys the most respected profession in the USA, Canada, and the UK. In addition, the collective power of the healthcare field in terms of reputation and even through groundbreaking research is undoubtedly enormous. Despite this prestige, respect, and influence, however, it is equally undeniable that many doctors feel utterly powerless in the face of changes within the profession.
Doctors experience of hopelessness is reflected in the approximately 300 physicians who commit suicide each year. It is powerfully manifested in the credibility of the rumors that increasing numbers of physicians are discouraging those they care about from entering the profession. The root of this dissatisfaction can be linked to the fact that modern medical leadership of many institutions has become fixated on patient satisfaction as the primary metric of success. Within this system of evaluation, physicians must strive constantly to improve their “productivity” and patient satisfaction scores (even as high scores from patients are often correlated with worse outcomes, inappropriate concessions to patient demands and higher costs) or risk losing their jobs. In examining modern medicine it seems as though doctors have lost the ability to say no. If this continues when patients seek care, experts argue patients will have a burned out hostage rather than a physician.
As we see from the case of physicians having one kind of power can very often fail to translate to other perhaps more meaningful variants. It is therefore vital that we be able to consider that issues can arise among even the most seemingly successful and privileged groups in our society and take steps even from this early stage of our training to enact positive change in shaping our careers both personally and as a broader profession.