Is there an expected hourly rate for which doctors should be paid? Are doctors worth $60 an hour? Are we worth $80 dollars an hour? Are we worth $600 an hour? I am truly getting confused. I had lived in my house for four years and it was completely empty except for a rundown couch and a kitchen table with some old office chairs around it. I hadn’t felt that I had the patience or the time to go shopping for furniture and supervise painters and other contractors and also run a busy medical practice. So, I tried to hire a reputable interior designer. I interviewed five designers. Four of them rejected the job because they insisted upon an hourly rate of over $200 an hour for “sourcing” items, ordering items etc. (I tried to negotiate the price down, but they wouldn’t have it!) The designer whom I ended up with still charged $170 an hour. I started working with her and realized, holy crap, I am making far less money as a physician than my designer. It took her over 5 hours to “source” some items when I realized, what am I doing? I decided to bite the bullet and become my own designer. I ended up buying everything myself and juggling contractors. I quickly realized that I was able to pick out some incredible furniture pieces and get many items at wholesale. How hard is it to pick a paint color? Go to the store. This color looks nice. Purchase. No disrespect for designers…but is it right that after 8 years of schooling after college that I should earn less than an interior decorator who never even went to design school?
Three years ago, I found a tiny breast lump in a 28-year-old patient. I sent her for a biopsy. She had breast cancer. We coordinated a treatment plan. She is now cancer free three years later. I was paid $67 for the consultation in which I diagnosed the patient with cancer. I received $59 dollars for my most recent follow up visit with her—and that is before accounting for my office overhead. My interior designer got paid $170 an hour by her clients to find a rug (even if it takes her 5 hours to find this amazing rug). Am I an arrogant snob to presume that I should get compensated at least that amount for making a diagnosis that saved a young girl’s life?
The problem with doctors is that we sell ourselves short—and it is just getting worse. I went to interview for primary care jobs at a big HMO near my house. They offered me $60 an hour. They expect their doctors to see between 45 and 55 patients a day at that rate. I said, “See ya later!” The problem is that over a dozen doctors were killing each other for that lousy job. The HMO filled that job within a week and had doctors on the waiting list for the next job opening.
I get surveys in my inbox nearly every week from pharmaceutical companies who are looking for physician opinions regarding medications. The e-mail headers read, “Get paid $25 dollars for 40 minutes of your time,” “get paid $15 dollars for 35 minutes of your time” etc. I am always dumbfounded by how little they are offering doctors for their time and valuable opinions. I normally ignore these e-mails as the ridiculously low compensation for them is so degrading–particularly when the companies putting out these surveys are worth BILLIONS OF DOLLARS! But one day, when I was on vacation and I had some time on my hands, I decided to fill out the “$25 for 40 minutes of your time” one (my judgment was clouded by my beachside pina colada). I went to start the survey and I was asked 10 questions. I thought I was finished with the whole thing, and then the survey said: “We are sorry, you cannot continue. We have just reached the number of doctors we needed for this survey.” You mean…there were other doctors who felt they were worth $25 for 40 minutes?? That is $37.50 an hour! I couldn’t believe it! Who are these physicians? And they would end up getting far less than that because the “screening questions” take approximately 5-7 minutes to fill out on top of the survey time.
What is good health worth? In my opinion, it is priceless. I would pay anything to save my mother’s or father’s life. I would pay anything if a doctor could give me 10 more healthy years of living. I would pay anything to be able to see if I were blind or hear if I were deaf. So would others. But, by accepting these grossly low offers, doctors are saying, “It’s okay. You don’t have to pay a respectable rate for someone who keeps you alive, but you should pay $170 an hour to someone who will tell you if light taupe is better than medium taupe for your bathroom walls.”
Doctors. Please don’t sell yourself short. Value your skills, education, and tremendously important contributions to society. If you keep accepting these $60 an hour assembly line jobs and filling out $30 an hour surveys, it is just a matter of time and we will all be begging for minimum wage.
The Design Doctor
The Design Doctor is a guest writer for DoctorCPR.com: America’s #1 Website for Medical Jobs + Practice Resources.