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Physician Satisfaction: Why Many Intend to Cut Back Hours Practicing

By Tim Callahan03 Jan 2018

Happy doctor.jpgBy 2025 it’s projected there will be a deficit of 90,000 physicians. That’s even after accounting for an increase in advanced practice practitioners that will be needed as the population ages.

What’s behind this projected decrease in physicians? While some plan to retire or pursue other opportunities, a study from the Mayo Clinic, American Medical Association and Stanford University cites an array of factors contributing to the decline in physicians, including:

  1. Excessive clerical burden from things like EHRs
  2. Loss of control and flexibility
  3. Lack of a work-life balance

In fact, of those physicians surveyed by these organizations, one in five reported they intended to reduce their work hours over the next 12 months, and perhaps most surprisingly, one in 50 reported they intended to leave medicine over the next two years to pursue a different career.

If these physicians follow through with their intentions, noted the study, it could have an even greater impact on the impending physician shortage.

Additional Issues Affecting Physician Satisfaction

While burnout is a primary reason for physicians decreasing their practice hours, other factors have also influenced this decision. Here’s a look at physicians’ most widely cited reasons for intending to reduce hours:

  • 28 percent cited wanting to spend more time with family
  • 14 percent said they were frustrated with Medicare and insurance issues
  • 13 percent cited retirement
  • 11 percent said they were frustrated with their work environment
  • And 10 percent cited declining reimbursement for clinical care

Of those physicians intending to leave their careers, the highest percentage (38 percent) were over age 60, with most planning to retire. The next highest percentage (nearly 23 percent) were under age 40.

Researchers found that those who were burned out and/or dissatisfied with their EHRs were most likely to reduce hours or leave their clinical practices.

Practice Setting

Over half (53 percent) of those physicians surveyed who worked in an active military practice expressed the desire to leave their practices. Following close behind at 27 percent are those physicians who work at a veterans hospital. Twenty-four percent of physicians who work in an academic medical center expressed interest in leaving their practices.

What the Future Holds

According to researchers, “If 2 percent of physicians intend to leave practice altogether in the next 24 months and 30 percent followed through on this intention, approximately 4,759 physicians would leave the workforce. This loss would be roughly equivalent to eliminating the graduating class of 19 US medical schools (average class size, 125 students) in each of the next 2 years.”

To address the problem of the shrinking physician workforce, study authors suggest training more physicians and also that national policymakers and health care institutions work to address the challenges of burnout with a comprehensive approach.

What do you think? Are you intending to reduce your hours or leave the profession? Tell us why below.

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