What Keeps Late-Career Physicians Engaged

Debra Shute, August 17, 2017

Physicians older than 50 are motivated by a different set of factors than younger doctors, research suggests.

Physicians may not be as eager to retire as the industry has been led to believe, according to a recent survey of more than 400 physicians age 50 and older.

Overall, physician respondents said they intend to retire at age 68, compared to the average U.S. retirement age of 65.

The research was conducted by Hanover Research on behalf of locum tenens staffing firm CompHealth.

About half (51%) of respondents signaled interest in working part-time or only occasionally after retirement.

"That's good news," says Lisa Grabl, president of CompHealth. "With the physician shortage, we need all of the physicians who are able and willing to work we can get. We want to understand what will keep them engaged in the workforce."

The average respondent to the CompHealth survey respondents is 60 years old, works about of 45 hours per week, and has practiced medicine for an average of 28 years.

While a 2016 survey from the Physicians Foundation, indicated that close to half of the overall physician population plans to retire sooner rather than later, the motivations of later-career physicians are specific:

They're almost ready for retirement.

Out of the survey sample, 83% of physicians said they'd taken steps to prepare for retirement and 70% had taken advantage of employer retirement services such as a 401K or pension.

A 2015 study from Fidelity Investments, however, showed that physicians on average save just 9% of their incomes for retirement, short of the 15% recommended by finance professionals.

They value work-life balance.

If they got to do their careers over, 44% would have maintained a better work-life balance. "It came through loud and clear that physicians would have changed their careers if they understood what it was going to mean for their work-life balance," Grabl says.

Debra Shute

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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