What to Do About Physician Unions

Lena J. Weiner, March 31, 2014

As tensions between employed physicians and their hospital bosses ratchet up, HR professionals need to draft a strategy for either blocking or accepting the likely event that doctors will organize into labor unions.

If the phrase "labor union" brings to mind construction workers in hard hats, longshoremen on the docks and nurses in their scrubs demanding more favorable nurse/patient ratios, get ready—growing numbers of employed physicians may give rise to a new group of laborers seeking solidarity.

"I think the time is fast approaching when a combination of trends will drive physicians to organize," says David Leffell, Section Chief of Dermatologic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology at Yale School of Medicine.

"Tensions between large hospital and health systems and doctors are increasing. Large health systems and hospitals are striving to de-professionalize doctors and create structures in which doctors have even less voice than they have now," he told me.

Frustrated by the lack of control he felt doctors have in modern healthcare settings, Leffell wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in January of 2013. He was surprised to see the response it got. "I believe it was the number one emailed article in the WSJ that day," said Leffell. "Clearly, it touched a nerve."

Lena J. Weiner

Lena J. Weiner is an associate editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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