Why 'everything' is at stake if physicians don't unionize

Matt Mazurek, MD, assistant clinical professor of anesthesiology at the St. Raphael Campus of Yale New Haven (Conn.) Hospital, joined Becker's to discuss why more physicians are turning to unionizing and what's at stake if physicians continue to lose power. 

Editor's note: This interview was edited lightly for brevity and clarity. 

Question: What's at stake here if physicians don't gain bargaining power through unionizing?

Dr. Matt Mazurek: Continued erosion of morale and basic care. I think that the drive for physicians to leave the practice of medicine will be exacerbated even more. I fear that unless we do something about the work environment and address some of these larger issues, younger physicians, especially, are going to have shorter careers and look for an exit a lot sooner than they would otherwise. So what's at stake really is our career satisfaction and then having access to physicians in general. That's the siren call for all of this. 

And I think mid-careerists like myself who still have several years to go want to practice in good environments. So that's what is at stake. Everything, pretty much. And really getting our voice back in the C-suite and at the table like we once enjoyed. I really think that we've been silenced and I think with the union, the voice and that seat at the table can no longer be ignored.

Q: How have physicians been silenced in the last decade or so?

MM: As we've become employed, not all of us sit on the boards of the hospitals as much, nor do we have as much representation in the C-Suite. If you were in private practice, you were the COO, the CEO, etc. Frankly, for most of history, at least in the U.S. healthcare system, these businesses courted physicians. So to court the physicians means they have to be listened to as well — you have an inherent voice because they have an inherent interest in retaining you and recruiting you. Now that we're employed, and then when we have a noncompete, well, where are you gonna go anyway? They don't have to really listen to you. 

Additionally, now you don't only not have a voice, but you can frankly be abused through overwork or unreasonable production pressures and that sort of thing. I think we need to take a little bit more of that power back and realize that we're, for lack of a better word, cogs on this corporate wheel and we weren't cogs, you know, 20 to 30 years ago at all.

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