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Amidst an ongoing crisis of Physician Burnout, Frontline DC Physicians Form Union
Washington, DC – Resident physicians at George Washington University (GW) announced today their intention to form a union with the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU). Their filing comes amidst a massive wave of housestaff unionization in the U.S., including the residents at Montefiore Medical Center who voted overwhelmingly to join CIR last week.
In a U.S. healthcare system that prioritizes profits over patients, resident-led organizing efforts kicked off early last fall. Faced with over 80 hour work weeks and their ever-increasing patient loads, and an epidemic of burnout among healthcare workers, it became clear to GW residents that forming a union was the best way to have a say in decisions that impact both them and their patients. “We are devoted to our patients and will always go the extra mile to provide the best care. Yet at the same time, we are struggling to care for our everyday needs,” said Dr. Maryssa Miller, a first-year Internal Medicine resident at GW. “We came together so we could have a say in our working conditions and be able to provide the best care possible for our patients without unmanageable added stress and financial burden.”
Despite working and living in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country, GW housestaff are struggling to make ends meet due to rising inflation and stagnant pay. Many are burdened with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt, making it even more challenging to cover basic living expenses. “Everyday, we provide care for the people of this city, but many of us can’t afford to live here,” said Dr. Katia DaSilva, a second-year OB/GYN resident. “Between my monthly loan payments, rent, and food, my expenses consistently exceed my income. It’s a stressful situation and it takes a toll.”
The U.S. is currently in the midst of a public health crisis of physician burnout, with its prevalence reaching an all-time high of 63% since the beginning of 2021. Yet after struggling for months to advocate to hospital management to address urgent issues impacting their quality of life, GW residents say that forming a union is the only way for them to win the support they need on the job.
“We all became doctors because we want to help people, but the reality is that we often don’t have the time to take care of ourselves or our own health needs. In Emergency Medicine, we don’t even have paid sick time, and if we call out sick, we have to make up all of our missed shifts,” said Dr. Owen Lee-Park, a third-year Emergency Medicine resident.
The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) is the largest housestaff union in the United States. A local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing over 25,000 resident physicians and fellows. Our members are dedicated to improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for our communities.