Meet the doctor who started a physician advocacy group

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Meet the doctor who started a physician advocacy group

This week is Physicians Week, and this is one in a series of interviews with members of the physician community that are bringing a variety of ideas and networks together in order to improve the relationships between physicians and between physicians and their patients.

Dr. Kim Jackson founded a large network of physicians and future physicians that started as a group on Facebook. As patients lamented increasing costs in health coverage and less time with their physicians, doctors became burdened, and this political advocacy group was founded as a way to help deal with the issues.

How did this physician advocacy group come together?

What I started doing was realizing that medicine has changed and a lot of doctors work in a hospital only, work outpatient only. We don’t have that connection that we used to have in the doctor’s lounge and passing each other in talking. So I called my network, started setting up meetings at the library. Every Saturday I started meeting with different doctors, but it wasn’t the same doctors. At the time I was thinking I’m a working mom, I’m a physician, I go to church — I don’t have time to meet every Saturday at the library. So what could I do to try and get us together?

So the idea came up, why don’t you do a Facebook group? Oh, I don’t know if I have time for that. Would anybody want to be part of it? So we talked to a couple of colleagues, went ahead and started it. A year later we have 5,300 members in our Facebook group. We have every region in the United States represented as well as members in Greece, Japan, Canada, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rican, I want to say Pakistan. It is amazing. Not only are members from the U.S., we’re basically advocating for physicians. A lot of physicians feel like their voices aren’t being heard, and we have practicing physicians, retired physicians, retired physicians, military physicians, medical students. We have physicians looking for residency, just the whole gamut. Even with our website, we want to bring in the public because we want to educate them.

What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting this group?

I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned is how disconnected we are but how much we crave connection. We are excited when we talk to each other and find out some of the issues we have are the same issues other colleagues have and how warm and cool doctors are and how they want to connect with each other and be able to share information. And we love what we do. We’re very frustrated with a lot of things that are going on — bureaucracy and insurance and a lot of things, patients not really getting what we go through to get here. At the end of the day, we want that connection — with each other and with our patients. That was cool because I didn’t know. That was really good to see that folks are ready to connect and take care our ourselves and our patients.

How great of a tool has social media been for physicians?

I’ve discovered — and this still catches me off guard. Of course, social media is the way to go now. We have a website, and we’re going to do a newsletter and get to people through e-mail and stuff like that, but by far, social media is an extremely powerful tool that I think physicians especially don’t utilize well. Between Facebook and tweeting things and just getting things out there, we’re able to get our message out quickly as well as it can go viral. You can use that to get it out to lot of people.

One thing I discovered is patients like hearing about what we do for the community. I put a post up probably a while ago — and I really didn’t know it would hit a nerve like this. My oldest patient is 103; she’s okay with me sharing this story. She came to see me on the day of her birthday, and so I literally told my office manager to get some flowers for this lady, a card. We did a quick little video on her. She was very grateful and happy in the video. It got around — I had people in my church telling me it was awesome, there’s a group I’m part of that has 60,000+ members. The post got 4,000+ likes. I had no idea how much of a heartstring that would pull. People can tell how much you care about your patients. It’s not just me; there are tons of doctors that do this kind of thing.

How do you feel your organization has helped physicians the most?

The way it has helped — for one, you don’t feel so alone. With the group, you have people messaging you asking how you’re doing, maybe people you haven’t connected with in awhile. It’s this network — brotherhood, sisterhood. If you’re frustrated, it’s a good place to air those frustrations out. I have people message me saying they’re glad this group is here, saying they felt alone in private practice and this group gave them hope. That’s amazing because it is a tough job.

That dilemma you have when you’re trying to share some of your issues and concerns with other people. They always think doctors don’t have problems and you don’t want sympathy — you want empathy. When people don’t understand the sacrifice that goes into what you’re doing and how you have to balance it every day. Talking to colleagues and realizing that they’re going through the same thing and being able to remind them why we got into this in the first place. We have the professionalism and the knowledge they might not have, and you get an opportunity to educate them. We understand their barriers, their hurdles. There’s a lot of issues. We also are frustrated with the paperwork, the government regulations, but at the end of the day we’re here for you and want to help you. It makes it worth it.

What’s the biggest obstacle you think physicians face today?

I think a lot of it stems from the breakdown in the patient-physician relationship. I think that would probably be the biggest hurdle. Because no matter where you are in your training or what you’re doing, you’ll always deal with that at some point. You have different things dictating what you want. Whether it’s your boss saying get them in, get them out. Whether it’s wanting to make sure you get good reviews. Whether it’s family members of the patient or they themselves expecting something unrealistic. It’s all about making sure that there’s a connection between you and that patient and they realize you care for them and you’re there for them but getting them to realize you’re pulled in various directions. I think no matter where you work, that may be demonstrated in different ways, in different places.

Then there’s also a physician’s wellness and work-life balance. A lot of people aren’t aware there’s an average of 400 physician suicides a year. It’s a lot; it’s a big deal. If there were 400 suicides a year for another group, it would be considered an epidemic. But it’s a silent issue in health care for physicians that we don’t even talk about. One of the reasons I started this group was I had a good friend of mine who was a pediatrician, and she took her own life. I think about it today, and it really breaks me up. You don’t want anyone to feel alone. You want to see if you can make a connection. And of course, happy, well physicians can treat patients better. We want that. It’s very important.

Do you have any plans for Physicians Day?

A couple of things. One of the things we did start out with was we will be at health care town halls nationwide. The other thing that was encouraged was for physicians to actually show appreciation for other physicians. Even locally here. I discovered carnations are the flowers for physicians. Encouraging others to show love to physicians they care about. The other thing we are doing locally is we are having a physicians appreciation dinner where we invite all physicians, and we have local people that sponsor it. We feed them, love on them. It’s great because it’s one of the few chances we get to see each other, other than in the office.

Kim Jackson is founder, Physicians Working Together.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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Published at Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:00:25 +0000