3 min read

Why Doctors Should Stay in Their Lane

By now the spat been physicians and the NRA has been well-publicized, days after the NRA published a tweet in response to an American College of Physicians position paper on reducing firearms injuries and deaths in the United States.

While the NRA tweet was undoubtedly inflammatory - there are only so many ways to respond to someone telling you to "stay in your lane" - physicians' histrionic responses on social media are a perfect example of the inflated egos and sense of self-importance afflicting many doctors today. Many, if not most of the doctors who jumped into the Twitter fray did so by sharing sob stories of dealing with GSW/penetrating trauma patients and photos of blood-soaked scrubs. However, sharing hospital-themed gore and emotion porn on social media doesn't suddenly turn a person - not even a person with an MD or DO - into an expert on firearms and public policy.

The first impression I get after seeing all this emotion porn is that the most outspoken doctors are the ones who have too much empathy. Sure, medicine is a hard job. Anyone who's been through four years of medical school and 3-7 years of residency can attest to that, me included. But after all those years of training in their chosen specialty, it's hard to argue they didn't know what they were getting themselves into, especially when it comes to the trauma surgeons, forensic pathologists, and emergency physicians. These very doctors need to stop acting as if the fact that they got blood on their scrubs at work or had to tell a parent their child died after being shot suddenly entitles them to a platform and a holier-than-thou moral pedestal. They act as if the very act of caring for and being empathetic toward patients with GSWs is some life-changing, God-given experience when in reality, that's our fucking job. Let's stop pretending that empathy is some finite resource in limited supply and not actually a trait that can be turned on and off at will by someone working in a call center and making way less than the six-figure salary of an attending physician. Some schools of thought believe that too much empathy in healthcare can actually be a bad thing. Sorry, news flash...but doctors are paid to treat patients and save lives, not melodramatically bitch about our experiences doing so on Twitter. Indeed, that's what all of these #ThisISMyLane and #ThisIsOurLane anecdotes from doctors on Twitter reek of - bitching. Let's face it - in today's world of modern medicine, empathy is nothing more than good customer service or a good Press Ganey score. Perhaps these riled-up doctors on Twitter are just burned out and need to consider taking a break from clinical practice or finding an alternative career altogether. After all, if you can't handle death, dying, gore, and suffering on a regular basis, why did you become a doctor?

Some physicians and healthcare providers on Twitter also used the opportunity to criticize the NRA for lobbying against gun-related research. I find this ironic, considering that the house of medicine is at one of its most divided points in history; less than 25 percent of physicians are members of the nation's largest and most visible medical association, the American Medical Association (AMA). If doctors can't even agree with each other due to infighting, what business do they have taking on a wildly successful and united organization like the NRA and its members? In any case, it's hard to criticize the NRA for standing up for constitutionally-guaranteed gun rights. Perhaps physicians could use a pointer or two from the NRA on building group unity. If physicians truly cared about gun violence, they might consider banding together putting forth part of their own six-figure salaries instead of just paying lip service and having nothing new to offer.

Above all, physicians need to stop acting like their medical degree and experiences with patients automatically entitle them to be the foremost authority on a highly complex subject with implications that extend far beyond the realm of medicine. So, to my fellow medical students/residents/attending physicians: let's just agree to go back to work and do our fucking job without feeling the need to post about it incessantly on Twitter.