For orthodontics instructor, risk of violence against doctors is worth it


Orthodonture head Wang Hongmei is proud to do work increasingly considered too dangerous

Wang Hongmei, head of the orthodontics department at the Beijing Stomatology Hospital, has a hectic work schedule, but she tries to take time out to converse with each of her patients. Understanding their needs, she believes, is crucial in avoiding a medical dispute.

You haven’t taken a break since you started work five hours ago today. Are you always this busy?

I run two treatment rooms at the same time. My doctoral students attend to the less complicated cases, but I make all the diagnoses and design all the treatment plans. I know some patients don’t like young doctors, but the students have to be trained on the job; if not, who will treat us when we retire? And I’m here to ensure the quality. I see 20, 30 patients a day.

You’re very accommodating. How do you manage that?

Most of my patients are young people. Teenagers get better results in orthodontic treatment because their bones are still developing. Children are more cooperative when we’re gentle with them and help them work off their fear. I tell them it’s just noise from the equipment and that the treatment’s not really painful. It’s normal to dread going to a dentist because people lack medical knowledge. We have to help them overcome their fear so they can have neat, beautiful teeth. Those who send their children to the orthodontics department tend to have higher demands of their dentists. They also tend to be more troublesome whenever a problem arises.

Have you had any medical disputes so far?

A doctor can do only so much within such limited time, and there’s a limited number of doctors as well. We’re restrained by our limited resources. There are often many disputes in the outpatient department. If I have to see 100 patients a day, I need to make sound judgments and treat each patient with a good attitude, but it can be difficult. More patients means more medical disputes. I know it’s all about communication, that’s why I take time out to talk to my patients. I’d also rather see fewer patients to ensure quality treatment than see more and have them complain about me.

There has been talk of a talent drain due to strained doctor-patient relationships and frequent violence against doctors in public hospitals. What’s your opinion?

Doctors are expected to meet very high standards. Considering how much doctors in public hospitals are paid, being a doctor isn’t a good profession in terms of how much effort is put into the job and how little they get out of it. I understand why some doctors are leaving public hospitals; the risks are high while promotion is slow. They’re tired of waiting, so they just up and leave for a private hospital. It’s a shame but it’s the reality. I think state leaders have their own understanding of the issue. As doctors, we work hard and we love the profession, but you can’t just always emphasise only the sacrificial part of the profession. Everyone wants a change, but it’s hard and our leaders probably don’t know where to start to improve the situation either.

You’re famous in this line of work and could earn big bucks in private practice. Why do you stay on in a public hospital?

In the 1980s, my family thought that being a doctor was a good and stable job for a woman. A doctor’s social status was also much higher then. After medical school, I found that I enjoyed dentistry as it was fun and challenging. I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing my patients look better after I fix their teeth. Opening a private clinic certainly allows one to make more money. Being a department head means more things to worry about. But everyone pursues different things in life.

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 December, 2014, 5:59am


South China Morning Post