Physicians Delaying Retirement, Leaving Medicine for Other Fields

August 18, 2011

It’s not surprising that many physicians are delaying their retirements due to the recession. What is surprising are the changes they are making as a result of that delay.

It’s not surprising that many physicians are delaying their retirements due to the recession. What is surprising are the changes they are making as a result of that delay.

One out of every two physicians planning to retire within six years before the recession hit, say they postponed their plans due to the nation's economic climate. That’s according to a survey of 500 physicians conducted by staffing firm Jackson & Coker.

As would be expected, the majority of these physicians who postponed retirement plan to continue working part-time (32 percent) or continue working full-time (26 percent).

But what’s not expected is that a large percentage of these physicians say they are planning major career changes.

Nineteen percent say they plan to move to another position in the same field. An equal amount says they plan to leave medicine - not to retire, but to pursue something new.

That’s quite a big career step for a physician planning on retiring just a few years ago.

The fact that 19 percent of these physicians are choosing to leave the field (when most likely they would only need to stick it out for a few more years) could emphasize how dissatisfied they are with medicine.

One physician who took part in the survey listed multiple sources of discontent among physicians. Among them he noted low pay, lack of respect, high risk for litigation, and negative changes in healthcare.

“This is a tough time to be a physician,” Jackson & Coker President Sandy Garrett said in a statement. “Not only are they facing the coming effects of healthcare reform, which is placing considerable challenges on their ability to effectively practice medicine and maintain a viable medical practice. The economy has severely impacted their ability to save and retire.”

Still, perhaps there’s a glass half-full perspective when it comes to the survey results. 

As important as it is to explore why these physicians may be choosing to leave medicine, perhaps it’s just as important to note that they are choosing to pursue something new.

In other words, it’s quite admirable that 38 percent of these physicians who are delaying retirement are brave enough to start over in a new position or in a new field.

How do they have the wherewithal to do it?

Ironically, perhaps it’s due to traits they gained through practicing medicine.

Physicians are constantly struggling to find new ways to increase revenue, see more patients each day, and adapt to health reform initiatives.

Medicine pushes physicians to their limits, yes, but it also keeps them sharp and on their toes.

Though it’s a struggle, perhaps practicing medicine also keeps physicians young - and ready for new challenges.