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Physicians Harbor Labor Day Blues

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, September 1, 2011

These are the same Generation Xers who want more hospital-based employers and who don't want crazy working hours. They want a steadier paycheck, and with the economy in upheaval, they are going for Plan-B: Work as long as possible, Sorrell says.

In the survey, physicians cited economic scenarios affecting either their family or medical practices that are impacting their immediate and future plans.

"I had planned to leave the military and enter private practice," says one physician. "The group that I hoped to join was unable to follow through with their offer as two partners had to delay their own retirement due to the recession and the uncertainty created by the healthcare reform legislation. Thus, no position was available to me, so I am still in military practice with a 'wait-and-see' philosophy."

"In a group of 8, we struggled with pay in 2008," says another physician. "There were times we all took no salary. Medicare held up payments. Patients treat us like a bank. Employees have better benefits than we get ourselves. I would quit entirely if I did not have a child in college."

Added a third physician, "The recession has had a dramatic impact on my practice. I practice radiology and while volume has only decreased slightly, reimbursements have diminished and the business of radiology has allowed employers to extract additional work out of some physicians, while letting others go. Salaries have decreased up to 50%."

There certainly is a demand for more doctors. The American Association of Medical College's Center for Workforce Studies estimates a shortage of 124,000-159,000 physicians by 2025.

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3 comments on "Physicians Harbor Labor Day Blues"


Keith Jennings (9/2/2011 at 6:00 PM)
Enjoyed reading your report on this research, Joe. Thank you for sharing this.

A. J. Rosmarin (9/1/2011 at 10:35 PM)
Emotional integration for the sake of "just doing something" is never a good reason to sell one's practice. With one-third of practicing physicians aged 55 and over - over 250,000 physicians - this is a subject of increasing frequency and concern amongst physicians all over the country looking for an exit strategy and a way to monetize the goodwill in their practices from, in many cases, over 25 years of business and dedication to their patients.

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC (9/1/2011 at 3:19 PM)
As a physician advocate, I have found many of my recent conversations with physicians to be quite depressing for the very reasons you have elucidated. Physicians, more than ever, are feeling like cogs in a machine, subject to pressure from government and state mandates, threats of audits, patient impatience, bottom-line thinking and other such trials. While I recognize that there are realities in life and business for everyone to deal with, and I have little tolerance for unwarranted whining, I fear that physician anger and despair may lead to a backlash that we as a society will ultimately find threatening to the health of our social fabric.