‘Status is derived from doing research’
At university medical centres (UMCs), academics not only divide their time between research and education, but also spend it on patient care. For UMCs a change in the recognition and rewards system must include a change in the appreciation of patient care.
“For me, a good doctor is someone who takes great care of their patients, is up-to-date on the latest developments in their field and is an engaged teacher,” says Esther Heuts, surgeon and associate professor at Maastricht University. “However, if you are a doctor who is great at delegating, if someone else sees your patients and teaches your students, you can devote all your time to research and be promoted to professor.” “A lot of doctors spend 80 percent of their time in the clinic,” explains Marian Joëls, dean of the UMC Groningen, one of the UMCs participating in the Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU). “If they want to teach or carry out research, they need to do so in the remaining 20 percent. That should also be taken into account when we talk about recognition and rewards.”
Status instead of energy
Joëls thinks it’s important that doctors can combine patient care with teaching or a career in academia. “There seems to be a hierarchy in which status is derived directly from doing research. I think people should be recognised and rewarded for the things that energise them, whether that’s research, education or patient care.” Heuts fully agrees and illustrates this with a description of the enormous amount of recognition for a multidisciplinary breast reconstruction research project of which she is a member: “…even though I spend relatively little time on the research. In comparison: I’m also deeply passionate about teaching, but in the current system it gets me little to no recognition at all.”