Industry Trends

New data on physician retirement – Are you ready?

There’s new data available on physician retirement. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, nearly 45 percent of all actively practicing medical doctors in the United States are age 55 or older. That means more than 370,000 physicians are at an age when they at least contemplate retirement and may begin asking questions such as, have I done everything in my career I set out to, or are there still clinical experiences I’d like to accumulate? Am I tired of dealing with workplace politics and administrative duties? Do I want to make an abrupt departure from the workforce, or slow down gradually?

Physician retirement is a highly individualized choice

The decision of when and why to retire is obviously very personal and involves many factors. That said, there are probably as many reasons to continue working as there are to retire. The recent Late Career Physician Study by Hanover Research and CHG Healthcare Services, Weatherby Healthcare’s parent company, asked doctors why they wanted to keep practicing, and approximately half cited three main reasons:

  • Because they enjoy practicing medicine
  • Because of the social aspects of the profession
  • Because they want to maintain their existing lifestyle

Plus, more than 90 percent of clinicians believe they still have a lot to offer their patients and their communities.

However, the physicians also listed what most interested them during this point of their careers:

  • 85 percent want more time to travel and engage in hobbies
  • 74 percent want to eliminate stress from their lives

In other words, older physicians can be in a quandary about whether or not to retire because there are pros and cons to both sides of the decision. But there’s no rule book that states you must choose one or the other. Instead, there’s a third option: locum tenens.

5 ways locum tenens makes a great third alternative

There are five key benefits to accepting temporary contracts during the later stages of your medical career that could bring you the best of both the working life and the rewards of retirement.

weatherby - physician retirement - image of female physician enjoying outdoor adventure
kayak in lake.

1. Cut back on work hours

Locum tenens puts physicians in charge of their schedules. If your goal is to cut back on the number of hours you’re on duty, then you decide when and how often you agree to short-term contracts. You’re free to accept fewer contracts. The opposite is true, too. If you like being busy, then take on as many assignments as you wish.

2. Focus on patients

Do administrative responsibilities steal time away from patient care? Do the demands of managing a practice generate stress? According to the Late Career Physician Study, 57 percent of respondents reported having less time to spend with patients than they would like. The survey also stated that nearly three-fourths of physicians would like to reduce their stress levels. As a locum tenens professional, you’re at least one step removed from those nonmedical duties, which means more of your attention goes directly toward clinical care.

3. Maintain an income

As noted above, physicians said they continue to work because they want to maintain their lifestyles and feel full-time employment affords them the financial means to do so. The fact is locum tenens contracts oftentimes pay higher hourly rates than staff positions, which could provide the income potential you seek even though you’re clocking in fewer hours. Also, staffing agencies cover transportation and living expenses related to the assignment so you’re not assuming extra financial responsibilities.

4. Enjoy the adventure

Locum tenens assignments take you to new communities, even places you may never heard of or thought to visit. Being on assignment immerses you in the small town or big city for a few days or weeks, which offers an intimate portrait of the community and its people who are your new patients. What’s more, locum tenens professionals can express a destination wish list to their consultants. Why not use temporary assignments to engage in personal interests and hobbies?

5. Give back

Chances are you’ve accumulated a vast history of clinical experiences and skills by the time you’re considering retirement. Have you wanted to lend that knowledge to underserved communities? Now’s your chance! Many rural and other underserved facilities utilize locum tenens services to fill staffing voids. Not only can you pitch in with patient care where it’s most needed, but you may also be able to impart some of your expertise to the staff as well as learn a few new tips, too.

If the idea of retirement both appeals to you and raises concerns, maybe it’s time to consider the flexibility of locum tenens. Give Weatherby Healthcare a call today to learn more about how locum tenens might fit into your lifestyle at this stage of your career.


About the author

Anne Baye Ericksen

Anne Baye Ericksen is a journalist and locum tenens subject-matter expert with more than two decades of experience. She was a regular contributor to LocumLife, Healthcare Traveler and Healthcare Staffing and Management Solutions magazines.

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