Recently my wife and I were reflecting on her previous career of working night shifts at a hospital in London and the challenges of exhaustion at work. Soon the topic of the doctor-shaming posts on social media came up and noticed the increase in this type of activity over the past few years, particularly on Facebook.
Many of them revolve around doctors’ submission to what can be considered a call of nature, which is to sleep when tired. Online commentators argue that they should not be sleeping while within the hospital premises. Medical professionals and their families and friends were not able to keep mum about the issue. They were prompted to start a social media campaign with the hashtag “notodoctorshaming” to educate people that sleeping doctors in hospitals is just a manifestation of the bigger problem in the healthcare industry.
Taking a closer look, the main issue seems to be neither the sleeping doctors in hospitals, nor the behavior of these shamers, but the workload and work schedule of the doctors, which can be resolved by finding enough talents and distributing cases and patients in an equitable manner.
For people who are not aware of the protocols in the emergency room (ER) or how a hospital works in general, it can be so easy to judge a sleeping doctor in the hospital as someone not doing his or her job. Moreover, if you were a relative or a friend of someone who had just been in an accident or is fighting for his or her life, your emotions can easily take over and find a scapegoat for all the mishaps – the doctors. And when you are upset, grieving, or just plain disappointed, nothing feels better than getting attention and sympathy even from people you barely know.
Directly from the Facebook Newsroom, it was reported that currently, there are one billion people active on Facebook at one time. One intriguing or emotion-provoking social media post can spread like wildfire, and once a post has been shared and read and has been invested on emotionally, what has been said would be very difficult to take back.
The only way to fight derogatory Facebook posts is to do a counter-post. Thus, the #notodoctorshaming campaign. The campaign does not aim to personally attack individuals that have shamed doctors, but to educate people that doctors are human, too. They want to help and save lives to the best of their abilities since that was what they promised to do (see Hippocratic Oath), but they also need to eat and rest.
A day in the life of a clinician
Why are most doctors always tired? Why are they often late during check-ups? Why do they check on a hospitalized relative only once a day? What does a clinician do all day?
In an article from Veritas Prep published in the U.S. News, it was revealed that a primary care physician usually works 18 hours a day, considering the fact that this doctor only works in a small community hospital. If for an office employee, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. is the regular work hours, for a doctor, it is just the time spent doing check-ups. Before 8:00 a.m., they have to do rounds at the hospital, and and after 5:00 p.m., they usually have to do follow-up check-ups.
In the documentation report from Veritas Prep, doctors also have on-call responsibilities and have to be ready anytime during the night should they be called for emergency situations. They are lucky if they will have a “quiet” night, but that rarely happens. This means that the doctor that was just recently shamed on social media has not had sleep for 24 to 36 hours straight, and has not had the chance to spend time with his or her children and/or partner for several days already.
Effects of doctor-shaming on the doctor and on the institution
As aforementioned, when something gets popular in the social media, what has been shared is difficult to take back. According to Stewart Gandolf from Healthcare Success, a doctor’s online reputation is now more powerful than his curriculum vitae (CV). Seven out of 10 people would rely on what they see on the internet when it comes to choosing their healthcare provider. Patients are not likely to see a doctor that has negative reviews on the internet.
This has detrimental effect on the career of doctors and revenue of hospitals. Doctors who have bad reputation also tarnish the reputation of the hospital they work for. On the flip side, doctors who have positive reviews and have shown personal engagement can increase a hospitals revenue to about $460,000 in a year, according to consulting firm Gallup. Good reputation draws referrals, and just like any other business, a hospital’s revenue is based on the number of customers they serve.
How can doctor-shaming be avoided?
Indeed, a doctor’s reputation has a positive relationship with the hospital’s revenue. What, then, is a fool-proof way to avoid doctor-shaming to maintain doctors’ and hospitals’ good reputation?
People in the industry believes that there is a shortage in the number of clinicians in the U.S., so employee doctors are encouraged to attend to more patients and work more hours instead of getting more clinicians. This leads to a serious problem of doctors not getting enough rest that results to cases of doctor-shaming, tarnishing the reputation of not only the doctor’s, but of the institution he or she is affiliated with.
Reports have been emphasizing a shortage in the supply of medical doctors in the United States. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the healthcare industry will lack about 90,000 physicians in 2025. However, policymakers have argued that the doctors are not lacking, but are simply lumped in certain areas in the country.
How talent acquisition tech could help
As hospitals and clinics continuously look for new tools and technologies to more effectively hire doctors and nurses, they should consider talent acquisition technologies such as DocDelta. This app allows hospitals to get more out of their existing talent pool, find new candidates and information on where the doctors are, whether or not they would be open to new opportunities, and help to ensure that institutions are able to keep the doctors that have the best reputation in the industry, driving positive reviews on social media that turns into revenue.
Doctor-shaming is just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is what only the hospital management can see. Now that, social media are getting more and more popular each day, and choosing healthcare providers is becoming more and more like online shopping as time passes. As patients become more techie, so should the hospitals be. It is about time that the industry maximizes the tech made especially for them and invest on data that may not get likes and shares, but could help drive revenue in an upward trend.