The career choices doctors make affect the lives of every patient they treat. Like anyone, doctors sometimes discover they’re not on quite the right career path, while some just take time to find the specialty that suits them best. Either way, without doctors and the knowledge and skill they provide in caring for their patients, many people would suffer the effects of illness more acutely, and our lifespans would be dramatically shortened. Dating back to 1933, Doctors’ Day gives patients and their families the chance to show their appreciation for the people who spend their lives helping and healing others.
(Image Credit: wavebreakmedia)
In the 1840s, laughing gas (ether) parties became popular. Dr. Crawford W. Long noted that people who had used ether felt no pain when they fell down. He thought it could be used to numb patients for surgery. Dr. Long first used surgical anesthesia in the form of ether on March 30, 1842. During the first surgery, he removed a cyst from James Venable’s neck in Jefferson, Georgia.
Eudora Brown Almond, wife of Dr. Charles B. Almond, first conceived of a special day to honor doctors. Her idea was officially adopted by the Barrow County Alliance in Winder, Georgia. The first Doctors’ Day was observed by the Barrow County Alliance on March 30, 1933—the anniversary of the first use of surgical anesthesia. Just a few years later, Doctors’ Day was adopted by the Georgia State Medical Alliance and Women’s Alliance of the Southern Medical Association. It wasn’t until 1990 that Congress passed S.J. RES. #366 and President George H. W. Bush signed it into law. Public Law 101-473 made National Doctors’ Day official beginning March 30, 1991.
The first Doctors’ Day was celebrated by sending cards to doctors and their spouses. Flowers were placed on Dr. Long’s grave and the graves of other deceased physicians. Red carnations became a symbol of Doctors’ Day, so they may be the first choice when choosing flowers for a doctor’s gravesite. People may send flowers or cards to their doctor’s office to say thank you. Many hospitals have award ceremonies for doctors or commemorative services for deceased doctors on Doctors’ Day.
Frank Cook, M.D., Wayne Memorial Hospital (Image Credit: Soliant)
Some doctors might bemoan their decision to enter the medical field, but not all of them. Frank Cook, M.D., a hospitalist at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Jesup, Georgia says, “I love hospitalist work; I wish it was around 30 years ago. I enjoy working in the hospital more than I enjoyed my private practice. I just wish that I had found my niche sooner.” When choosing a specialty, it’s important to consider whether you’ll be happy with everyday aspects of the field.
Job prospects for future doctors are brighter than ever, too. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) expects a shortage of 90,000 physicians in seven years and 130,000 by the year 2025. Their data showed just a 1% shortage in 2008. In 2020, about half the shortfall will be positions for primary care physicians (an estimated 45,000), while the remaining 46,000 will be positions for surgeons and medical specialists.
For those doctors who want to be able to help more than one hospital, locum tenens positions are an option. By using temporary staff, hospitals can cover these kinds of shortfalls, and locum tenens physicians can try a hospital on for size before making a long-term commitment. Some doctors make careers out of locum tenens assignments, adopting a lifestyle that allows for travel and professional challenges that allow them to use a wider variety of skills.
To combat the shortage, the AAMC has also called for 30% increase in medical school enrollment. Schools are ready to meet that goal by 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment for doctors to increase 24% by 2020. The aging Baby Boomer generation is one reason for this expected disparity. The BLS also predicts that the most needed specialties will be ones catering to illnesses of the aging population, like cardiologists and radiologists. From ether to radiology, the medical field will continue to grow and adapt with new technology, but one thing will remain constant: dedicated doctors will continue to save lives.