By MIKE MAGEE, MD
As we struggle to control a second wave of Covid-19, we are reminded once again of the nurses and doctors who place themselves at risk willingly and consistently. They are struggling uphill with a deeply segmented health care system that chronically rewards the have’s over the have-not’s, and a President clearly intent on creating as much havoc as is humanly possible on the way out the door.
Filling the leadership void this week, we witnessed the unusual appearance on network television of two national leaders from the professions of Nursing and Medicine, Dr. Susan Bailey (President, AMA) and Debbie Hatmaker (Chief Nursing Officer, ANA) appearing in tandem.
The united front presented by these two women leaders was reassuring. They didn’t pull punches, but spoke truth to power, describing the nation’s condition as “very grim” and “quite stark.”
In many ways, their joint appearance was a reflection of a changing reality in communities large and small across America. A Medscape survey released this week found that women’s roles in health care are growing in leaps and bounds. For example, in Family Medicine, close to 40% of the physicians are now women, and they work approximately the same number of hours per week as their male counterparts.
These women doctors are increasingly working in team settings. The majority of Family Physicians (71%) now work within a team that includes either a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Physician’s Assistant (PA).
Covid-19 has placed a huge burden on this workforce physically and financially. Aside from the obvious risk of contracting the disease themselves, regulatory precautions have impeded normal access to care. During the first wave of the pandemic, physician practices reported a 55% decline in revenue and a 60% decrease in patient volume. In March of 2020 alone, 43,000 healthcare workers were laid off nationwide, and nearly