Physicians Quitting?

Physician's Money Digest, January31 2004, Volume 11, Issue 2

More than 50% of US physiciansage 50 to 65 plan to retire, seeknonclinical jobs, or significantly reducetheir patient load in the next 1 to 3years, according to a recent survey byMerritt, Hawkins & Associates (800-876-0500; www.merritthawkins.com),a national physician search and consultingfirm.

"Traditionally, physicians in their 50sand early 60s have been the workhorsesof medicine," says Joseph Hawkins,CEO of Merritt, Hawkins & Associates."If these physicians stop, millions ofpatient visits will have to be absorbedby an already limited number of doctors."The survey polled nearly 450physicians age 50 to 65 in 13 medicalspecialties nationwide.

About 8% plan to retire, 10% willseek nonpatient care medical positions,3% will seek jobs outside of medicine,6% will work on a temporary basis,17% will not accept new patients orsignificantly reduce their workloads,and 7% will seek other nonclinicalcareers. These options would limitpatient access to physicians age 50 orolder, which comprises 38% of all doctors,according to the AMA. About255,000 physicians are between ages 50and 65, the AMA reports.

Nearly 65% of senior doctors alsobelieve that physicians coming out oftraining today are not as dedicated orhard-working as doctors were 20 to 30years ago. "Whether valid or not, manyolder physicians see themselves as morewedded to medicine than younger doctors,"Hawkins says.

The survey also suggests that disillusionmentamong experienced physiciansruns deep. More than 50% indicatedthat they would not choose medicine asa career if they were starting out today.Only 36% said they would recommendmedicine as a career to their children oryoung people. On a more positive note,about half of the physicians surveyedthink the quality of US health care generallyhas improved in the past 20 years,while 33% indicate it has declined.