Much of the recent discussions regarding the impending physician shortage include the reality that by 2020, one in three physicians will be of retirement age. Couple that with the associated costs incurred with each physician vacancy, and it is clear that hospital and healthcare system administrators need to get out in front of their physician retirements. Jackson Physician Search recently conducted a survey of physicians and administrators regarding their thoughts about retirement and how that will impact physician staffing levels. The survey was followed up by the publication of a white paper outlining retirement perceptions of both groups of respondents.
One thing that was clear throughout the survey results is that physician perception about retirement varies greatly from administrator’s perception of the same. Here are a few ways that administrators can better prepare for physician retirements.
Understand what is driving the retirement discussion for physicians.
Administrators responded that the average age for retirement at their facility was 65, which is in line with U.S. Census data reporting 63 years of age. Administrators also cited that the main driver for physician retirement was lifestyle (48%), but that the second driver was for health reasons (15%). Physicians, on the other hand, cited lifestyle (44%) as the top reason, but stated financial stability (23%) second, and burnout (20%) was third.
Facilitate the Retirement Conversation.
Contemplating retirement is a big deal for anyone, physicians included. When asked, 80% recognize that it is their responsibility to initiate the retirement conversation, but only 52% responded that they feel comfortable doing so. Overwhelmingly, administrators responded that they felt comfortable having the retirement discussion with their physicians. That is an important consideration to keep in mind. Knowing which of your physicians are nearing retirement age with the understanding that they may not be comfortable talking about it, a good strategy should be to create an environment where they can openly discuss their plans. Some organizations use surveys. Others have HR provide talking points to assist the physicians in starting the retirement conversation. However it is done; the important factor is to make it a collaborative, comfortable conversation.
Don’t Get Caught by Short Notice.
We all know how long it can take to fill a physician vacancy and how much each vacancy can cost. One area of great divergence between physician responses and administrator responses concerns the amount of prior notice to be given before a retirement. Almost 50% of administrators stated that the ideal advance notice was one to three years, while 40% of physicians claimed 6 months or less was sufficient. With that much of a discrepancy, clearly, proactively having retirement discussions are just as important as developing an ongoing recruitment effort to have available candidates in the pipeline.
Create a Win-Win Retirement Transition Plan.
Up to 40% of administrators responded that they considered full retirement the top priority for physicians. Surprisingly, only 17% of physicians indicated that they were planning to fully retire, and almost 28% stated that they would work full or part-time somewhere else. Again, this divergence of opinion re-emphasizes the importance of open and honest retirement conversations. Administrators can be proactive and work on creating a transition plan for each physician’s retirement. Whether it is an offer of flexible part-time hours, taking on telemedicine duties that can be managed around their schedule, or even non-clinical duties as available. Another important piece of information that came out of the survey is that 50% of physicians stated that they would consider employer-sponsored incentives to start an early retirement process. That type of proactive approach could be utilized to the organization’s benefit and help to avoid any retirement surprises. When asked if they offered any type of proactive, employer-sponsored early retirement benefits, nearly 95% of administrators responded in the negative.
Retirement is going to be an important topic over the next several years for a large portion of the current physician workforce. Administrators should take the opportunity to review the Jackson Physician Search Retirement Survey White Paper and formulate a collaborative strategy with their physicians. Having a clear understanding of each party’s intentions can ease any unexpected vacancies and also allow for a more comfortable transition for the retiring physicians.
If your organization needs the assistance of a trusted physician recruitment partner or wants to tap into the knowledge of experienced healthcare industry professionals, reach out to Jackson Physician Search today.
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