Written by: Katie Ashley

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) has recently announced its intention to “recruit [the] best and brightest” health care practitioners through increases in pay in order to better serve our nation’s veterans.  The proposed plan will raise the pay ceiling for prospective Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical professionals.  Namely, there will be an annual pay bump of $20,000 to $35,000 for future physicians.  In addition to the salary boost, the VA plans to take additional measures such as partnering with local nursing programs as well as the Department of Defense Health Affairs, and developing a program to enlist more corpsmen and combat medics to join the ranks of VHA clinicians, among others.  Moreover, the VA boasts that it is the largest employer of medical practitioners and that more than 70% of all doctors in the United States have received training through the VA.

That being said, a 2014 survey by The Medicus Firm indicated that physicians continue to rank government employment as their last choice.  Health care providers from all over the country consistently show a lack of interest in working for the government, which includes working for the VA.  This disinterest among physicians in VA work, especially in long-term employment, has resulted in “[a] revolving door of short-term physicians,” which ultimately hurts our veterans.  This high degree of turnover explains how the VA can claim to be the largest employer of practitioners.  Having temporary medical professionals, and more notably, professionals who are less than interested in working in these positions, results in a lack of continuity of medical care, lack of attentive medical care, and an overall indifference towards the “noble and inspiring mission” of serving those who served us.

Although this proposed increase in pay may entice physicians to stay longer—ameliorating the continuity problem—I cannot see how dangling money in front of physicians to work in a position that the majority of all medical practitioners do not want is going to improve the care that our veterans receive.  The practitioners should not be in it for the money, they should not be in it as a stepping stool to obtain a bigger and better job, they should not be in it because there are no other jobs to choose from, but rather they should be in it to help those who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.  Even though more practitioners are needed, and the additional money may attract more prominent physicians than in the past, I cannot say that I would want a physician who is more motivated by money than my well-being.  At the end of the day, quality is better than quantity.

If this proposed pay raise results in improved care for our veterans, then I am all for it.  It is baffling to me why working in these positions is so undesired.  Our veterans watched out for our backs, and now it is time for us to better care for theirs.

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2014/06/15/though-veterans-need-physicians-va-isnt-popular-employer/

http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2632

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