Remediation in Practicing Physicians: Current and Alternative Conceptualizations

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Abstract

Suboptimal performance in practicing physicians is a decades-old problem. The lack of a universally accepted definition of remediation, the paucity of research on best remediation practices, and the ongoing controversy regarding the institutional responsibility for enacting and overseeing the remediation of physicians suggest that it is not merely a difficult problem to solve but a problem that the community does not grapple with meaningfully. Undoubtedly, logistical and political considerations contribute to this state of affairs; however, other underlying conceptual issues may also play a role in the medical profession’s difficulties in engaging with the challenges around remediation.

Through a review of the medical education and other literatures, the authors examined current conceptualizations of both reme-diation itself and the individual being remediated, as well as how the culture of medicine influences these conceptions. The authors explored how conceptualizations of remediation and the surrounding culture might affect not only the medical community’s ability to support but also its willingness to engage with physicians in need of remediation.

Viewing remediation as a means of supporting practice change—rather than as a means of redressing gaps in knowledge and skill—might be a useful alternative conceptualization, providing a good place to start exploring new avenues of research. However, moving forward will require more than simply a reconceptualization of remediation; it will also necessitate a change in how the community views its struggling members and a change in the medical culture that currently positions professional autonomy as the foundational premise for individual practice improvement.

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