Either way, my long office day is likely to be even longer, and the conversation is likely to become intense.
My choice: I chose to discuss the importance of voting with my patient and was completely honest about my vote.
A Broader View
After work, I asked my colleagues what their response would have been, and I was very surprised by their answers. Many of my colleagues said they were apolitical and did not vote; thus, politics is a non-issue/topic during their patient interactions. This led me to wonder whether this was true for doctors across the country.
A 2007 article, “Do Doctor’s Vote?” by David Grande, MD, MPA, David A. Asch, MD, MBA, and Katrina Armstrong, MD, MSCE, analyzed U.S. voting participation from 1993–2002, and showed that lawyers and the general population vote more often than physicians.1 The article also noted this trend has been consistent since the late 1970s.
Voting is a clear demonstration of civic responsibility and community engagement. There are several possible reasons why health professionals may choose not to vote: busy schedules, lack of interest, disengagement, burnout, lack of confidence in the process, a belief their vote won’t make a difference, etc. These arguments against voting would be no different from other members of the general population.
Perhaps health professionals are making a choice to keep healthcare apolitical by aligning with neither side, something that has been very difficult over the past few months.
I would argue that voting is a privilege, and I have voted every year since college.
Healthcare policy is a critical issue politically, and voting for necessary changes should be an important priority and opportunity for our profession. Our practices are affected. And our position gives us a special understanding of how our patients live with the consequences of politically motivated legislation.
Physicians pride ourselves on our professionalism and commitment to our patients. Advocacy remains a core milestone during training. This is another way for us to make a difference for our patients, communities and country.
A Right & a Privilege
The 2020 U.S. election had record voter engagement. By the time this article is printed, all the ballots will have been counted, and we will be preparing for the inauguration. So whether or not you choose to discuss these delicate topics with your patients, keeping in mind the challenges outlined above, it is critical for us to participate in the political process. We may not support the same candidates or issues, but we all have the right and privilege to vote based on our beliefs. It is paramount that each citizen, doctors included, exercise this privilege.
Margaret Tsai, MD, is an associate staff member in the Department for Rheumatic and Immunologic Disease, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. She is a current member of the ACR Committee on Ethics & Conflicts of Interest.