The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines value as “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something” and “relative worth, utility, or importance.” We usually assess our professional worth by how we are treated at work. In social valuing framework, we are given social status based on how others regard us for who we are, what we do, and what we are worth. This is described as “felt worth,” which encapsulates our feelings about how we are regarded by others, in contrast to self-esteem, which is more of an internally held belief.
Our power came from our relationship with our patients and our ability to communicate and influence our patients, peers and administrators. As owners of our practices and small businesses, our currency with hospitals and lawmakers was our ability to bring revenue to hospitals and patient concerns directly to legislators. Practicing in more than one hospital made us more valuable and hospitals battled with each other to provide us and our patients the latest tools and conveniences. In return, we gave our valuable time freely without compensation to hospitals as committee members, task force members, and sounding boards for the betterment of the community. If I were a conspiracy theorist, which I am not, and wanted to devalue physicians I would seek to weaken the physician-patient bond. The way to implement this would be for a single hospital employer to put us on a treadmill chasing work relative value units, give us hard-to-accomplish goals, and keep moving the goalpost. Like I said, I do not believe in conspiracies.
The tsunami of byzantine regulations, Stark laws, and complicated reimbursement formulas has sapped our energy to counter the devaluation. Some are glad to see physicians, particularly surgeons, get their comeuppance because we are perceived as having large egos. This may be true in some instances. Yet, it turns out that the