Will doctors retire en masse soon?


The double whammy of burnout from the pandemic and the aging of baby boomer doctors is certainly making some scary headlines. A recent study by Elsevier Health predicts that by 2025, up to 75% of healthcare workers will leave the profession. And a 2020 study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts a shortage of up to 139,000 doctors by 2033.

“We’ve paid a lot of attention to physician retirement,” said Michael Dill, director of workforce research at AAMC. “This is a serious concern in terms of whether there is an adequate supply of doctors to meet the medical needs of the United States. Anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.”

For Dill, the biggest concern for hospitals across the country is the number of older doctors of all specialties who are ready for retirement.

“The physician workforce as a whole is aging,” he says. “Nearly one in four of the doctors in the United States is he over the age of 65. Therefore, the special events that drive retirement are necessary because retirement is a real phenomenon that should concern us all.” is not.”

Dill also said there’s no data to suggest that doctors in rural and urban areas retire sooner than in suburban areas, but that doesn’t mean that retirement has the same impact depending on where the patient lives. not.

“If you live in a rural area and you have one small clinic in town, when that doctor retires, the entire supply of doctors is gone,” he says. “In a metropolitan area, it’s not such a big deal.”

Why young doctors are rushing to retire

Fernando Mendoza, 54, a pediatric emergency physician in Miami, worries that more doctors will leave the profession at a young age because doctors are overwhelmed with paperwork.

“I love taking care of my children, but when I spend as much time as I need to spend reviewing medical records, pharmacy requests, and all Medicare and Medicaid compliance issues, It’s costly to do the job.It worked.”

These stressors may force some young doctors to consider carving out a second career or to rush young doctors into retirement.

“A medical degree carries a lot of weight, and it helps when you pivot,” says Mendoza, who founded Scrivas, a Miami-based medical writing agency to ease the paperwork burden for doctors. . “Physicians may want to be involved in acquiring medical equipment, or they may be able to focus on investing. Hmm. Patience.”

what this means for patients

It’s time to stem the impending tide of retirement, Dill says. But the challenge remains difficult. First of all, the country needs more trained doctors now.

Health professionals also need to find ways to support doctors as they go about their days juggling endless responsibilities, he says.

An AAMC study found that patients already feel a shortage of doctors. A 2019 poll found that 35% of his patients said they had trouble finding a doctor in the past two to three years, a 10% increase from when he asked in 2015.

Additionally, the report shows that the population aged 65 and over is expected to grow by 45.1%, leaving a gap in specialized care as older people generally have more complex health conditions that require specialists. Additionally, physician burnout may cause more physicians under the age of 65 to retire much sooner than expected.

Changes in medical practice, telemedicine, and medical education (such as disruption of classes and clinical rotations, regulatory changes, lack of interest in certain specialties, etc.) may also be impacted by mass physician retirements. .

What Can We Do About Mass Retirement?

In “The Complexity of Supply and Demand for Physicians: Forecasts 2019 to 2034,” the AAMC found that federally funded GME support is in the process of training 15,000 physicians annually, with a five-year It reports that 3,000 new residency slots are being added each year over the years. The proposed model would add 3,750 new doctors each year starting in 2026.

Other efforts include increasing the use of APRN and PA, which is estimated to more than double the population by 2034; improving the health of the population through preventive care; improving equity in health outcomes; including improved care for

Removing licensing barriers for immigrant doctors will also help alleviate the shortage.

“We need to find better ways to leverage the entire medical team without overburdening doctors,” says Dill. “It’s also essential to focus on ways to support physician health and enable them to remain active in the field, but we’re going to reduce that percentage.”

That’s exactly what Marie Brown, M.D., director of practice redesign for the American Medical Association, sees nationwide. It also helps with coping.

“We are seeing doctors cut salaries by more than 20% to ease the burden,” she says. “They spend her four days in clinical time with the patient, doing the necessary paperwork and documentation for that fifth ‘holiday’, and not compromising her remaining four days of care.” . “

And she fears this is just a stopgap solution.

“When a doctor spends three hours a day doing unnecessary work that could be done by another team member, it causes burnout,” says Brown. “If they’re in a financial situation, it’s no surprise that they want to run away and retire.”

“I recommend negotiating within your organization so that you do more of what you love and less of what you don’t, like mentoring and running residencies, while cutting from full-time to less than full-time. Yes, says Joel Greenwald, M.D., a Minneapolis certified financial planner who specializes in physician financial management.

“Things that typically fall into the ‘not-so-like’ bucket are working and answering phones on weekends,” he says.

“This benefits everyone on a massive scale because doctors who find what they enjoy generally work later in life, but not as hard,” he said. “Even if you’re not working full-time, maintaining a comfortable and happy job for a long period of time can have a very powerful effect on your financial planning and avoid the risk of running out of money.”

Lambeth Hochwald is a New York-based journalist covering health, relationships, trends and issues important to women. She is also a longtime professor at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

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