05 February 2013


One of physicians' main complaints is the overwhelming amount of paperwork, bureaucracy, and red tape that they encounter. The causes are manifold, and include the reluctance of insurers to pay for medical expenses, the omnipresent threat of malpractice litigation, and the growing trend of physicians' working for large, bureaucratic health-care conglomerates.

The closer I come to being a physician, the more I become mired in useless paperwork that wastes my time and saps my soul. To spend a couple of hours observing a physician, I had to fax in 37 pages'(!) worth of forms. These forms included several quizzes which asked me questions like what phone number to call in the case of a chemical spill. Beyond attesting that I was current on my vaccinations, I had to list the date of each vaccination I've received. The forms were repetitive. Several times I had to input the same information, like my emergency contact and my relationship to them, what year I will graduate medical school, and my medical school's address and phone number.

It is only getting worse. I was informed that I needed to provide proof of certification in CPR, forcing me to scramble to enroll in a 4.5-hour-long Saturday morning class. The class was taught by a college freshman. Is that who we want instructing our medical students about how to practice medicine?

On top of that, we are required to complete several online modules introducing us to electronic medical records. The modules have hours of mind-numbing videos, and we are awarded credit only when the videos play through in their entirety. I had already learned the content of some of the videos, and so, like my classmates, I simply played them in the background on mute and then answered the questions at the end.

I think part of the problem is that it costs my institution almost nothing to mandate paperwork and computer modules. Now that forms and courses are electronic and online, our school doesn't have to hire an instructor, doesn't have to reserve a classroom, doesn't even have to pay for copy paper and toner. There also is no accountability and no mechanism for feedback. I don't even know who mandated that I fill out the online modules, who to complain to about how bad they are, whether whoever assigned the videos ever watched them himself. I was informed of my assignment because an automated assignment notice was sent to my e-mail account. There's no point in fighting it. Not that I would have the time to fight even if I could.

I can't allow myself to get upset over having to jump through these ridiculous hoops. But it feels like I lose a part of myself when I submit uncomplainingly to this unnatural and impersonal labyrinth of paperwork and bureaucracy. I am starting to see why so many physicians burn out.