[Infographic Guide] 3 Disconnects Between Physicians’ Retirement Plans and What Administrators Expect


As a record number of physicians near retirement age, our white paper Preparing for the Wave of Physician Retirements Survey Results reveals disconnects that reinforce the need to plan.

1: Retirement Conversation: Who Initiates and How Much Notice is Enough? 

Good News: Both administrators and physicians believe it is the physician’s responsibility to bring up his or her retirement plans.

Disconnect: Physicians find notice of 6 months is enough. Administrators prefer 1-3 years.

Takeaway: Initiate retirement conversations by the time physicians are age 55. Establish regular check-ins to ensure adequate time to plan for physicians’ retirements.

2: Driving Forces: What are the Factors Leading Physicians to Want to Retire? 

Administrators and physicians have very different ideas about the primary catalyst for retirement.

Half of the administrators believe it’s age, but this was not among the top three reasons physicians reported.

24% of physicians say burnout is the main reason for initiating retirement.

23% of physicians stated lifestyle was the most important factor behind their decision to retire.

22% of physicians listed achieving financial stability as a driving factor in leaving medicine.

Takeaway: During retirement conversations, determine the motivations of physicians considering retirement and identify adjustments that could promote retention.

3: Physician Retirement Plans: Full Stop or Fizzle Out?

Administrators are more likely to believe that when retiring physicians leave, they leave medicine for good.

12% of physicians indicated they plan to go straight from working full-time to retirement.

58% of physicians would delay full retirement if offered part-time status.

52% of physicians would delay full retirement if offered flexible schedules.

Takeaway: Since only one in ten physicians plan to leave medicine completely, there is a great opportunity to keep physicians working longer by addressing their schedule preferences.

Download our White Paper: Preparing for the Wave of Physician Retirements Survey Results. If you need help preparing for a physician’s retirement at your healthcare organization, reach out to Jackson Physician Search today.

[White Paper] Preparing for the Wave of Physician Retirements Survey Results

Explore the full results of not only when physicians plan to retire but also why they will retire and how they hope to make the transition…

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5 Ways to Reduce the Impact of Physician Executive Retirement


An aging physician workforce combined with burnout and heightened pandemic-era stress has led to an increase in the recent rate of physician retirements. As the industry braces for the numbers to continue rising, one segment of physician retirements may be especially concerning–that of physician executives. Year to date, CEO turnover at hospitals is at a four-year high, and many of those retiring are physician executives. The reasons for the increased turnover are complex, but retirement certainly plays a part

What can the industry do to prepare for physician executive retirements? The Jackson Physician Search Retirement Report offers several things administrators can do to reduce the impact of physician retirements, and they apply to physician executive retirements as well. Succession planning will lay the groundwork for finding a replacement, but other strategies, such as offering flexibility and retention bonuses, may serve to delay a physician executive’s retirement timeline. Keep reading to learn more about five ways to reduce the impact of physician executive retirements.

1. Physician Executive Succession Planning

According to an MGMA STAT poll, just 35% of healthcare organizations have a succession plan for leadership positions. While this is slightly better than the 21% that reported having succession plans for typical physician retirements in the Jackson Physician Search Retirement Report, it still shows a lack of proactive planning from the majority of healthcare organizations. However, this is not because they don’t recognize the importance of succession planning; in a 2021 joint study from MGMA and Jackson Physician Search, healthcare administrators assigned an average importance of 7.5 to succession planning (with 10 being the most important). Although administrators clearly understand its importance, they may feel they don’t have time to work through the multiple steps involved with succession planning. We’re here to suggest it’s okay to start small by prioritizing just a few of the steps. 


2. Build or Strengthen Internal Leadership Training Programs

Ideally, healthcare organizations are able to seamlessly promote someone internally to replace a retiring physician executive. After all, across industries, multiple studies suggest that internal hires have higher performance rates, better retention rates, and are more cost-effective. In the aforementioned MGMA and Jackson Physician Search study, 43% of administrators who reported having succession plans said their plans included a mentor program. We are hopeful to see this percentage grow, as some of the most respected, physician-led hospitals in the nation are known for their robust internal training and mentorship programs.

Internal training programs will look different at every organization, and obviously, a thriving leadership training program isn’t built overnight. However, it is worth taking small steps, such as assigning physician executive mentors to promising physicians. You can also assemble a team to start building a curriculum around the key leadership skills needed by physician executives at your organization.   

3. Offer Retention Bonuses and Increased Flexibility

In the Jackson Physician Search Physician Retirement Survey, just 12% of physicians said they intend to retire and stop working altogether. Nearly half (43%) of physicians hope to reduce their work hours in the years leading up to retirement, and a third of physicians plan to retire from their current job and work locum tenens or work part- or full-time with another organization. The numbers may look somewhat different for physician executives, but it is likely that retiring physician executives also hope to continue working to a certain extent. 

The question then becomes, how can administrators retain retiring physician executives for a longer period at their current organizations? Offering increased flexibility–reduced hours or the option to work remotely–may be enough for them to consider prolonging their departure, and, of course, a retention bonus or an enhancement to their future retirement package may also be persuasive. However, retention efforts are not one size fits all. Talk to retiring physician executives about their motivations for leaving and discuss adjustments that can be made to keep them happily working in their own capacity. This will give you ample time to find a qualified replacement who is a good fit culturally and, therefore, likely to stay long-term.

4. Develop a Contingency Plan 

Organizations must also prepare for the case scenario that a physician executive will retire without substantial notice or interest in retention incentives. This is where a contingency plan for a physician executive vacancy comes into play. Just as a locum tenens physician may temporarily fill a physician vacancy, an interim physician leader may step in to temporarily fulfill the duties of an absent physician executive. While this situation is not ideal, it is one worth exploring so you know who to call if needed.

5. Partner with a Physician Executive Search Firm

If it is determined that an external search is needed to replace the retiring physician executive, organizations will improve the odds of connecting with top candidates by utilizing a physician executive search partner that has spent decades building relationships with physicians and physician leaders. Over the course of 10,000+ permanent placements, Jackson Physician Search has developed relationships with physicians all over the country at all stages of their careers. In addition to providing access to a vast network of physicians, a successful physician executive search firm will serve as an extension of your team, putting in the hours to conduct the necessary physician executive outreach for you.  


News of a physician executive’s retirement from a healthcare organization is typically not wished for, but adequate planning can help prevent it from burdening other leaders and staff or disrupting the continuity of patient care. Focus on creating a comprehensive succession plan and prioritizing internal leadership and mentor programs. Create an environment of transparency so you can openly discuss with the retiree their reasons for leaving and propose solutions that allow them to consider staying on in some capacity. Prepare for the worst by lining up a temporary contingency plan, but ideally, you will have ample time to activate your retained physician executive search partner to officially start your search for a replacement.

If you need help preparing for a physician executive retirement at your organization, reach out to Jackson Physician Search today. Our Physician Executive Search team has the experience, network, and expertise required to provide organizations of all types and sizes with the physician executive recruitment support you need. Contact our team today to learn more.  

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3 Steps to Forecast Physician Retirements


As the healthcare industry faces the challenge of an aging physician workforce, individual healthcare administrators must promptly find ways to manage increasing physician retirements within their organizations. However, the most commonly proposed solutions — educating and training more physicians, increasing the number of residency spots, making it easier for foreign-trained physicians to get licensed, etc. — alone won’t solve the immediate obstacles created by physician retirements happening now and in the near future.    

So what can administrators do to ease dilemmas created by physician retirements? Certainly, there are steps to take in response to a physician’s retirement announcement that will ease the aftermath, but a more proactive approach involving industry research, internal surveys, and open communication will allow you to forecast retirements, so you can prepare for a seamless transition.

Forecasting Physician Retirements: The First Step in Succession Planning

The most proactive thing healthcare administrators can do to ease the impact of physician retirements is to develop a forecasting system so they can better prepare for the eventual reality. This first step in succession planning, forecasting physician retirements, may seem obvious, and yet, most organizations don’t have a physician succession plan in place. According to the latest physician retirement research from Jackson Physician Search, 69% of administrators reported they do not have formal succession plans at their organizations. 

Succession plans aren’t the only things administrators are missing. A recent STAT poll from MGMA found a majority of medical groups (77%) do not have a formal physician retention plan, a process that, when implemented, is likely to lengthen the amount of time physicians work with organizations before they retire. Both succession plans and retention plans play essential roles in solving workforce challenges at healthcare organizations, including those related to physician retirements.   

Research Industry Data on Physician Retirements, Turnover, and Retention

What is the average age of physician retirement? Which specialties have the highest number of physicians nearing retirement? What is the average time-to-fill in your market for the specialists you’ll need? The answers to these questions and other industry data points can help administrators make educated guesses about when physicians are most likely to retire and how much time it will take to replace them. The aforementioned physician retirement report from Jackson Physician Search is full of useful data points covering not just the when but the why and how physicians tend to retire. 

Download the Physician Retirement Survey Results

In addition to physician retirement trends, administrators must consider the community’s needs and the organization’s plans for growth and then determine how the projected physician retirements will impact both. When there are inevitable retirement-related vacancies and the need for expansion, a dedicated physician recruitment partner can be a true asset in your organization’s physician recruitment journey. A physician recruitment partner allows your organization to connect with various top physicians catered to your organization and community’s needs so that everyone can move forward and adapt with a team they’re confident in. 

Conduct an Internal Survey to Estimate Physician Retirements

Gather data on the physicians currently on staff to understand their demographics, specialties, skill sets, and patient volumes. Use this internal data, along with your industry research, to create a timeline that estimates the number of physicians likely to retire in each specialty for the foreseeable future. Industry data on physician retention can help you estimate other attrition as well. 

The survey also presents an opportunity to ask physicians about job satisfaction. Invite physicians to share which issues contribute to their dissatisfaction as well as what they like most about working at the organization. Use this information to create a physician retention plan that speaks to the issues causing the dissatisfaction and strives to make physicians happier in their job and, therefore, more likely to delay retirement. 

Normalize Talking About Physician Retirement Plans

According to Jackson Physician Search’s research, administrators prefer physicians to give more than one year of notice prior to retirement, and yet most physicians believe three-six months is a reasonable amount of time. So, if administrators want more time to plan, they must start talking about retirement plans much earlier. We advise initiating a physician retirement conversation with every physician beginning at the age of 55. The discussion can be casual as it is simply an attempt to gauge their short and long-term plans. Of course, their plans may evolve considerably in the years between 55 and 65, but by starting the conversation well in advance and revisiting it regularly, you will remove any awkwardness surrounding the topic. 

The retirement conversation should be ongoing and involve questions not only about timing but also about how physicians envision making the transition to retirement. Do they think they will want to shift to part-time or take on a more consultative role as they ease into full retirement? Make sure to provide them with options that allow them to keep working in some capacity as long as they are willing and able. Express support for their desires and choices and encourage them to be open with you as their timelines and intentions change.


While no one can predict the exact number and timing of physician retirements, there are proven steps administrators can take to be much more prepared for retirements whenever they occur. When it comes to succession planning, start by forecasting physician retirements via external research, surveying internal physicians, and fostering open communication. Additional useful tactics involve identifying a physician recruitment partner, creating a timeline, and making a contingency plan. By projecting physician retirements and detailing the actions required when a physician gives notice, the organization lessens the burden felt throughout the practice and ensures continuity of patient care.

Are you beginning to prepare for an incoming wave of physician retirements? The team at Jackson Physician Search has the experience and expertise to advise and accelerate your efforts. Reach out today to learn more.

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How to Prepare for the Impact of Rural and Urban Physician Retirements



Industry leaders are bracing for a wave of rural and urban physician retirements. According to demographics compiled by the AAMC in 2021, 46.7% of physicians were over 55. This means nearly half of all physicians will be at retirement age in eight years. But, of course, age isn’t the only factor driving retirement. In the recent Jackson Physician Search physician retirement survey, 24% of physicians cited burnout as the most likely reason for retiring– more than those citing lifestyle changes (23%) or achieving financial stability (22%).

Healthcare leaders nationwide are concerned about the impact these retirements will have on their organizations and the communities they serve. Still, of course, not all organizations will be impacted to the same degree. Data from HRSA and cited by Rural Health Information Hub found 68.5% of physicians in rural areas were 55 or older in 2019. This same research found 52% of urban physicians were over 55, suggesting rural organizations can expect to be impacted even more by the coming wave of rural physician retirements. However, burnout may be worse among typically overworked urban physicians. This, coupled with age, suggest urban organizations won’t escape the impact of increased physician retirements.

Both urban and rural healthcare organizations must brace for impact, and yet, the aforementioned Jackson Physician Search study found 69% of administrators don’t have succession plans at their organizations. Succession planning is critical for easing retirement transitions, and rural and urban organizations must prioritize it. However, it’s not the only thing they can do to prepare for and minimize the impact of rural and urban physician retirements. Keep reading as we explore the recommended approaches for rural and urban organizations.

Mitigate Burnout to Delay Urban Physician Retirements

While the average physician age in urban areas may be slightly lower, as Baby Boomers continue to reach retirement age, these physicians will likely feel the shift in the physician-to-patient ratio. Admittedly, it may not be as intense as it is in rural areas. Still, for an already overworked physician workforce, the uptick may worsen already high levels of burnout, driving even more physicians into retirement.

Leaders of urban health organizations must therefore prioritize burnout mitigation to avoid early retirements caused by burnout. The causes of burnout are many, and there is no quick solution, but there are a few immediate actions management can take to fight burnout and improve job satisfaction. Improving communication between physicians and management is an essential first step. In a 2022 joint study from Jackson Physician Search and MGMA, physicians ranked “two-way communication with management” as the most important factor in job satisfaction — above compensation. In fact, 85% of physicians said two-way communication with management was “very” or “somewhat important” to their job satisfaction. However, when asked to rate their employers in this area, just one in four said two-way communication at their organization was “good” or “very good.”

Listening to physicians’ troubles will only get you so far. Leaders must take steps to reduce administrative burden, recognize and reward physicians’ hard work, and recruit support when needed.

Other ways to address burnout include offering more schedule flexibility, lowering productivity expectations, and finding creative ways for physicians to improve work-life balance. Physicians of all ages will welcome these options, but it is especially important to physicians approaching retirement age. In the recent retirement survey, nearly half (43%) of physician respondents said they hope to reduce hours in the years leading up to retirement. Extend the careers of physicians approaching retirement age by offering them flexibility and reducing their stress and burnout in their final years.

Embrace Flexibility to Counteract Rural Physician Retirements

Flexibility is equally, if not more, important for rural organizations. They, too, must give retiring physicians the leeway they need to reduce hours and go part-time if it will keep them working in some capacity. However, they must also offer this flexibility to potential replacements as a means of attracting candidates to the rural physician job.

In a joint study from LocumTenens.com and Jackson Physician Search, nearly half of the rural physicians (46%) cited “improved work-life balance” as a top factor in their decision to practice rural, the most commonly cited reason. More than a quarter (27%) said the ability to work part-time or flexible hours was a top factor.  Rural organizations should appeal to candidates’ desire for better work-life balance and demonstrate how the rural job can deliver.

If the rural organization’s patient load doesn’t lend itself to part-time work, they can build care teams leveraging advanced practice providers. These care teams, made up of providers working flexible hours, can meet the healthcare needs of the community as well as the lifestyle needs of the providers. Leveraging a care team will also reduce the impact of a single physician’s retirement.

Succession Planning for Both Rural and Urban Organizations   

Most importantly, both urban and rural healthcare organizations must create succession plans that forecast potential physician retirements and detail the actions required when a physician gives notice. Breaking the process into steps can make creating a succession plan more manageable. When a well-thought-out succession plan is in place, a replacement plan is in motion even before the retiring physician officially gives notice. This lessens the burden felt throughout the practice when a physician retires and ensures continuity of patient care for the community.

If your organization is expecting physician retirements in the near or distant future, now is the time to start planning. The Jackson Physician Search recruitment team can help you map out a timeline and, when you’re ready, begin sourcing candidates for the vacant role. Reach out today to learn more.


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3 Fears About Physician Retirement


Research from the AAMC indicates a wave of physician retirements is coming. The surge of retirements — caused by an aging and burned-out workforce — could significantly impact the growing physician shortage. Fears abound surrounding what this means for the industry’s ability to care for growing populations. 

However, physicians have their own, more personal fears about retirement. From guilt about leaving patients to concerns about boredom and losing a sense of purpose, these fears weigh on the minds of physicians as they begin to consider retirement. A recent physician retirement study from Jackson Physician Search asked physicians what worried them most about retirement. Here, we’ll explore their answers and some options to put those fears to rest.

Physician Retirement Fear: Boredom

In the new study, 39% of physicians cited boredom as one of their retirement fears. After decades of devoting their lives to work, first in training, then in the service of patients, it may be difficult for physicians to imagine coming to a full stop in retirement. Perhaps this is why just 12% of physicians surveyed said they intend to retire and stop working altogether. This figure is down from 17% who said they planned to come to a full stop when we asked the same question in an earlier retirement survey back in 2019. 

What will they do instead? Most plan to transition to retirement slowly, cutting their hours over a period of years until they are comfortable with full retirement. However, some say they plan to retire from their current employer and work full (4%) or part-time (14%) with another employer. Still 12% plan to work locum tenens. These options allow the physician to keep one foot in the professional world, ramping up or down in response to any boredom they might feel. 

Physician Retirement Fear: Losing Sense of Purpose

Many physicians started medicine because they wanted to help others and make a difference in the lives of patients. Certainly, by the time physicians are considering retirement, they have touched the lives of countless patients. One might think they could hang up the white coats and rest easy knowing they have made a difference, and yet, according to our new survey, 44% of physicians fear they will lose their sense of purpose in retirement.

Physicians with this specific fear can find ways to continue to make a difference in retirement. From serving as a mentor to participating in medical missions, there are plentiful opportunities for physicians who want to give back. They may also want to explore opportunities in telehealth that would allow them to provide basic care for patients without ever reporting to a clinic, or they may find fulfillment in working part-time for a rural health organization. Paid or unpaid, there are multiple ways for physicians to get involved in their community after retirement. 

Physician Retirement Fear: Financial Stability

Physicians may earn more than the majority of the population, but they still worry about saving enough to maintain their current lifestyles in retirement. In fact, 53% of physicians taking the survey said they are worried about financial stability in retirement, making it the most common retirement concern among physicians. This ties into another finding from the survey: one in four physicians view financial stability as the catalyst for retirement. That is, they will retire as soon as they are financially independent.

Of course, how much is enough? The answer one gives at 45 may differ significantly from the answer given as he or she approaches the traditional retirement age. This may explain why, as physicians get older, the age at which they expect to retire gets older. The amount needed to feel financially secure tends to keep growing.

Avoid financial stress by keeping your license active in retirement. The security that you can go back to work if needed may calm your anxiety. Establish a relationship with a locum tenens staffing firm so that you can be placed quickly should you decide you need or want to earn additional income.  

Other Fears About Physician Retirement 

Only 16% of physician respondents said they have no concerns about retirement, while others wrote in responses such as health insurance concerns and fears about leaving a career that continues to bring them joy. And, of course, retiring from a medical practice in which you are a partner comes with other concerns, both logistical and personal. It may feel as though you are letting down both your patients and your colleagues as you plan your exit. A slow, gradual exit is likely the optimal way to make the transition, but some discomfort may still be inevitable.   

Change of any kind can be difficult, so it’s not surprising that physicians have concerns about retirement. Fortunately, multiple options exist to address the specific fear. From part-time or reduced hours for the physician worried about boredom to mission work and telehealth for the physician who needs to keep giving back, if physicians can find ways to stay professionally active in some capacity, it will not only serve to alleviate their retirement concerns, it may also ease the impact of retirements on the physician shortage, calming the fears of industry leaders as well.

No matter where you are in your physician career, the team at Jackson Physician Search is eager to share our knowledge about the current physician job market. Reach out today or start searching for physician jobs online now. 

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Physician Retirement Trends: Easing Into the Next Stage

If you are thinking about retirement — whether in the next few years or the distant future — you should know the current physician retirement trends and consider how they might influence your future retirement options. 

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Physician Retirement Trends: Easing Into The Next Stage


Due to an aging and burned-out physician workforce, the healthcare industry expects to see a spike in physician retirements in the coming years. According to a report published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in 2021, nearly half (46.7%) of practicing physicians were over the age of 55. This means at least two of every five active physicians will reach the traditional retirement age of 65 in the next eight years. This, coupled with what we know about increasing physician burnout, makes it easy to see why the industry expects a spike in physician retirement trends to increase.

Are you among those considering retirement? Physicians of all ages typically have some idea of when they’d like to retire. According to a new report from Jackson Physician Search, the desired retirement age is trending younger. Another physician retirement trend noted in the report is that the traditional process of announcing one’s retirement and setting a date to make it official is no longer the norm. In fact, according to the report, only 12% of physician respondents plan to retire this way. 

So, how do physicians want to retire? The new report, “Preparing for the Wave of Physician Retirements,” reveals what today’s physicians want for their future retirements. If you are thinking about retirement — whether in the next few years or the distant future — you should know the current physician retirement trends and consider how they might influence your future retirement options. 

Physician Retirement Trends: Desire to Retire Earlier

Despite all the talk about the aging physician workforce, according to the study, many Baby Boomer physicians are still working full-time. However, among physicians under age 60, primarily Gen X, most report a desire to retire sooner rather than later. According to a 2021 Rural Physician Recruitment Whitepaper, Gen X physicians are more likely than Baby Boomers to report feeling dissatisfied with their levels of professional and personal fulfillment. So, perhaps it is not surprising that nearly 60% say they plan to retire before they turn 60 years old. Only 19% plan to work beyond the traditional physician retirement age of 65.

Despite the commonly held belief that one’s age drives the decision to retire, burnout is the reason one in four physicians in the study said they would eventually retire. Thus, the desire to retire younger is presumably driven by the fact that burnout, according to a joint MGMA and Jackson Physician Search study, is worsening among physicians year over year.

Takeaway: While it’s often the employment situation causing burnout, as a physician, addressing it early and transparently with your employer is the first step to resolving the issues contributing to burnout or those that eventually will. If you imagine yourself working a long career in patient care, mitigating burnout appears essential according to the report.

Physician Retirement Trends: Cutting Back Gradually

While many physicians express a preference to retire before the traditional retirement age, this may not be possible or even desirable when the time arises. Consider Dr. M, who, at 40, assumed he would retire by the time he was 60. But at 57, he has three kids in college, a beach house he’s still paying for, and he’s on the board (and heavily invested) in his niece’s start-up healthcare tech company. Retirement isn’t in his five-year plan — perhaps it’s not even in the ten-year version. And yet, like most physicians, Dr. M is burned out and isn’t sure how much longer he can sustain his current level of work. He’s not ready to hang it up just yet (nor will his bank account allow it), but surely, there’s a way to lower the intensity and keep working. 

Dr. M isn’t alone in the desire to work less. According to the data on physician retirement trends, physicians as early as 50 are beginning to cut their hours and slow down, and the percentage of physician respondents who report working part-time increases significantly with age.  

In the Jackson Physician Search study, physicians were asked what, if anything, would make them delay full retirement and keep working in some capacity; 58% said part-time work, and 52% said schedule flexibility. When asked how they hoped to transition to retirement, 43% said they hoped to reduce their work hours in the years leading up to retirement. 

Takeaway: The aging population has increasing healthcare needs, and many employers recognize that a part-time physician is better than no physician at all. Employers should be more willing to accommodate, and even encourage, flexibility and part-time schedules in order to prolong the transition to retirement. Even if your employer doesn’t currently have part-time physicians, it pays to ask what options might exist for you. 

Physician Retirement: Finding Work Elsewhere

In an article for HealtheCareers, Michael Dill, AAMC senior data analyst and director of Workforce Studies, explains that physicians aging out of the workforce aren’t retiring as much as they used to, but rather, they are moving to different jobs within the industry. He says the Great Resignation may be more of what economist Paul Krugman calls a great “migration.” 

This supports the findings of the Jackson Physician Search study, in which nearly a third (30%) of physician respondents said they plan to retire from their current job and work locum tenens or full- or part-time with other organizations. 

For Dr. M, this might mean he takes a job consulting for his niece’s start-up. Or it could be that he works part-time at the rural clinic near the mountain house he and his wife are building. Perhaps he pursues a teaching position at a local college, or he develops a relationship with a locum tenens staffing firm and works sporadically when he has availability. 

Takeaway: Even after physicians fully retire, they still have a variety of professional options available to them. Physicians who want to continue to contribute are sure to find organizations happy to accept whatever parts of themselves they still want to give. This is the time in your career when you can follow a passion, step into a mentoring role, or work locums to allow for more travel or time with family.   

Evolving Physician Retirement Trends

Physician retirement has evolved. While the traditional process of choosing a date, having a party, and hanging up the white coat is still appealing for some, many physicians are exploring their options, including part-time work, reduced hours, locum tenens work, or career shifts to teaching or consulting. Perhaps these options would have always been appealing to physicians, but only now, when employers are facing a shortage and desperate to keep physicians working in some capacity, are these options readily available. 

Are you interested in exploring the career options available to you? Whether you are nearing the end of your physician career or just beginning, the team at Jackson Physician Search has the experience and expertise to help you navigate the next chapter. Reach out today to find out how we can help. 

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4 Ways to Respond to a Physician Retirement Announcement


A wave of physician retirements is coming, and most healthcare organizations are not prepared. According to a 2022 report from AAMC, 46.7% of physicians were age 55 or older in 2021. This means two in five will reach traditional retirement age in the next eight years. Beyond age, rising physician burnout is also impacting the volume of retirements. In a newly released Physician Retirement Study from Jackson Physician Search, one in four physicians said they expect burnout will be the primary reason they choose to retire. Between a disproportionate number of physicians reaching retirement age, and burnout causing even younger physicians to retire, the industry must be ready for the impact of these departures.

The new study from Jackson Physician Search reveals that organizations are not as prepared as needed. Just one in four administrators reported having a succession plan to ease the transition when a physician leaves. Succession planning is a must, but there are other actions administrators can take in response to a physician announcing his or her intention to retire. Here we’ll discuss four things to do when a physician initiates a retirement conversation.

1. Express Support for the Physician’s Desire to Retire

Physicians put in years of training followed by decades of service to patients. When they feel ready to retire, they should not be made to feel as if they are letting anyone down. Administrators should express gratitude for all they have done up to this point and support for whichever path they plan to follow next. 

2. Ask Questions About Physician Retirement Motivation

Once you’ve expressed your gratitude and offered support, it’s okay to ask questions about what is motivating them to retire now. Chances are, your assumptions are incorrect. According to the new study, 50% of administrators think age is the primary reason physicians retire, but just 12% of physicians say they expect age to be the driving factor. In fact, the most common reason physicians predict they will retire is burnout (24%), followed by lifestyle (23%) and achieving financial stability (22%). The only way for administrators to know for sure what is behind the decision is to ask. 

Have they reached a financial status where they no longer have to work? Has their age or a health event made them realize they don’t want to spend their golden years in the clinic? If either is motivating the decision, ask them what they plan to do in retirement. Will they practice medicine in any capacity? Knowing their motivation can inform the options you propose for making (and perhaps prolonging) the transition.  

On the other hand, if burnout and exhaustion are driving the decision, ask more questions to learn the exact pain points. This will inform the options you provide as you discuss the transition. If you can resolve the issues causing burnout, they may be willing to stay in some capacity or at least prolong the transition. 

Download the Physician Retirement Survey Results

3. Discuss the Physician Retirement Timeline

Before you attempt to address their motivations with options, ask them what timeline they envision for their retirement. According to the aforementioned study from Jackson Physician Search, a majority of physicians think providing notice of six months or less is ample time. In fact, 41% say three months or less is acceptable. Nearly half of the administrators (47%), however, prefer one to three years.   

Of course, depending on location and specialty, it could take a year or more to recruit and onboard a replacement. That said, the longer the physician’s transition to full retirement, the better. Don’t pressure the physician to stay, but rather, provide him or her with options that will address the reasons for retiring and highlight the benefits of easing into it over an extended period of time.

4. Provide Options to Prolong the Transition

According to this new study, just 12% of physicians intend to retire and stop working altogether. Nearly half (43%) of physicians hope to reduce their work hours in the years leading up to retirement, and a third of physicians plan to retire from their current job and work locum tenens or work part- or full-time with another organization. 

So the question becomes if these physicians want to continue working in some capacity, what options can you provide to encourage them to continue working at your organization? Most administrators are already open to part-time hours and schedule flexibility, and nearly half are willing to reduce or eliminate call duties for retiring physicians. These options are appealing to physicians regardless of their motivation for retiring. If due to age and financial status, part-time and flexible schedules allow them to step back without stepping away completely. If the retiring physicians are driven by burnout, fewer hours likely equates to reduced stress. 

When physicians in the study were asked what else might persuade them to stay on with their employers, 21% said the opportunity to teach or mentor, and 30% said a retention bonus. One in four said the chance to work locum tenens would be of interest. This may be especially appealing to those retiring due to age, financial status, or even pressure from a spouse as it addresses fears about boredom and losing a sense of purpose (which 39% and 44% of respondents say are top concerns about retirement, respectively).

Communication is Key

When a physician announces his or her intention to retire, it is essential to follow the steps outlined here. However, in an ideal situation, you are not surprised by a physician’s retirement announcement, and you already know the answers to the questions mentioned here because you initiated the conversation long before retirement was a reality. If you create an environment that fosters open communication on the topic, you will have a clear picture of where physicians are in terms of thinking about retirement and even how they envision transitioning. 

Initiate conversations about retirement with physicians starting at age 55. Start the conversation early and normalize talking about their retirement plans. When the time grows nearer, the talks should be more focused on the how, when, and why. Knowing their true retirement motivations and post-retirement plans will help you offer options to persuade the physician to keep working in some capacity — which is, of course, the best way to ensure continuity of care as you plan for the future. 

Are you recruiting to replace a retiring physician or proactively recruiting as part of your succession plan? The team at Jackson Physician Search has the experience and expertise to advise and accelerate your efforts. Reach out today to learn more.


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How to Navigate the Physician Retirement Conversation


A leader in the pediatrics department for over a decade, Dr. J has an obvious passion for what he does. As a result, he is a favorite among patients and an impactful mentor to a number of other pediatricians. As he nears retirement age, administrators at the hospital are starting to worry about replacing him. They certainly don’t want him to retire, but if he’s considering it, they need time to plan. Is it okay to ask him directly? No one is sure…

These administrators are not alone. A record number of physicians are nearing retirement age, and organizations around the country are faced with this same dilemma–how to navigate the physician retirement conversation and the process that follows. It can be an uncomfortable topic, but in light of the impending wave of physician retirements, it’s imperative we answer the question of how to navigate the physician retirement process.

Physician Retirements on the Rise

According to a 2021 report published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), nearly half (45%) of practicing physicians are over the age of 55. This means more than 2 of every 5 active physicians will reach 65 in the next ten years. While 65 isn’t necessarily the magic retirement number for everyone, it is the reported median physician retirement age. This would suggest nearly half of all physicians who are currently practicing will be retired by 2030. Unfortunately, even this may be a conservative estimate. According to a 2019 study published by AMA Insurance and highlighted by the American Medical Association, 30% of physicians retire between the ages of 60 and 65 and 12% retire before the age of 60. All of these looming retirements are one factor contributing to the worsening physician shortage.

Of course, retirement isn’t driven by age alone; factors such as physician burnout and decreasing physician job satisfaction have the potential to increase an already high volume of physician retirements projected in the coming years. A recent whitepaper from Jackson Physician Search and MGMA,  Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover in Medical Practices, reveals the results of a study that support this claim. In the survey, 43% of physicians said, over the past year, they had considered taking early retirement. Additionally, in an October 2021 MGMA STAT poll, one in three medical practices reported a physician had left or retired early in 2021 due to burnout.

The Importance of Physician Succession Planning

With so many physicians expected to retire, physician succession planning has never been more important. If following an effective succession plan, physician leaders–regardless of their retirement plans–are tasked with detailing their responsibilities and developing talent in preparation for a potential need. A good succession plan also includes regular conversations with all physicians about their job satisfaction and future career plans for the purpose of forecasting–and preparing for–potential departures.

The reality, however, is that most organizations struggle to make succession planning a priority. In the aforementioned study by MGMA and Jackson Physician Search, the survey results make it clear that while healthcare administrators are worried about rising physician turnover, very few (16%) have a formal physician succession plan to address the issue.     

3 Questions to Consider Before Initiating the Physician Retirement Conversation

Initiating a conversation about a physician’s retirement plans may feel intrusive and perhaps even inappropriate. However, clear communication on this sensitive topic is critical. In preparation for the conversion, ask yourself these three questions.    

Who Should Start the Conversation?

In a 2019 physician retirement survey, 80% of physicians said they felt it was their responsibility to initiate a conversation about their retirement, but only 52% said they felt comfortable doing so. In the same survey, 40% of physicians said it was sufficient to give six months’ notice to an employer when retiring. Conversely, 50% of administrators said a one to three-year notice period was ideal.

Certainly, the more time an employer has to plan for a physician’s retirement, the smoother the transition will be for all parties involved. Administrators who wait for physicians to initiate the retirement conversation may rob themselves of valuable time. 

Knowing this, if you are still hesitant to start a conversation about retirement, try to make physicians as comfortable as possible and provide them with ample opportunity to initiate the conversation with you. Ideally, you already have regular check-ins with your physicians in which questions about their job satisfaction and goals are the norm–regardless of their stage of life. If these types of meetings are infrequent at your organization, it may be time to consider ways to improve physician communication overall.

What is the Motivation for Starting the Conversation?

If you do decide to initiate the conversation, be sure to first consider your motivation. It is acceptable to ask about retirement for planning purposes, but be certain you are not attempting to nudge your physician towards retirement due to poor performance or as a result of other changes occurring inside the organization. Retirement should be a personal choice for the individual physician.

Because repeatedly asking about retirement could be construed as age discrimination or harassment, the Society of Human Resources Management advises seeking legal counsel before initiating a retirement conversation. 

What are the Next Steps for Each Possible Outcome?

If you are asking physicians if and when they are planning to retire, you must be prepared to support them however they answer. If retirement is not on their radar yet, great! Express appreciation for their commitment and ask them to please let you know as soon as anything changes. 

On the other hand, if they admit they have started thinking about retirement but their plans are uncertain, this is an opportunity to show support by presenting them with options. In the aforementioned JPS retirement study, only 17% of physicians said they expect to take a full-retirement and a third said they hoped to work part-time. Ask the physician about their intentions and offer physician retirement alternatives such as a shortened work week, opportunities to work telehealth, or job sharing. Be willing to make adjustments that would allow them to continue working in whatever capacity they prefer.  

If indeed the physician’s full retirement is imminent, offer congratulations and then ask for their help to make the transition easier for all involved, including patients. You’ll want them to document their duties and train another physician to take over those tasks if necessary. Consider how patients will be notified and what type of provider should be hired to replace them. The urgency of each step depends, of course, on the physician’s retirement timeline.   

If your organization is expecting a physician to retire in the next year or beyond, you may be wondering how soon you should initiate a physician search. The Recruitment Team at Jackson Physician Search would be happy to share recruitment trends by specialty so that you can more effectively plan. Contact us today.   

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3 Things to Consider Before Physician Retirement


Are you one of the many physicians expected to retire soon? According to a 2021 report published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), more than two of every five physicians will reach age 65 within 10 years. But of course, retirement isn’t driven by age alone; factors such as physician burnout and decreasing physician job satisfaction are likely to increase an already high volume of physician retirements projected in the coming years.  

Recent data from a Jackson Physician Search and MGMA study supports the claim. In the survey, 43% of physicians said, over the past year, they had considered taking an early retirement and an October 2021 MGMA STAT poll found one in three medical practices saw a physician leave or retire early in 2021 due to burnout

Physicians certainly have reason to feel burned out. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians were dealing with long hours, administrative burdens, lack of autonomy, and productivity pressures. Like so many things, COVID-19 only intensified these existing problems. However, if burnout is the problem, is retirement really the solution? For some, the answer may be “yes,” but before you make this life-changing decision, you may want to ask yourself the following questions and consider a few physician retirement alternatives.  

If My Work Circumstances Improved, Would I Still Want to Retire?

Many of the headlines about physician retirement aren’t focused on an aging physician workforce, but rather, how the stress of COVID-19 and other forces have increased physician burnout, resulting in an unexpected spike in retirements. Is burnout at the root of your retirement plans? If so, would you reconsider if your circumstances improved? 

Consider Dr. J, an Emergency Medicine physician who spent his career working at a Manhattan hospital. He always felt his intense personality was well-suited to the high-stress job, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the stress to a level even he found impossible to manage. Nevertheless, he powers through each day, triaging patients. Now, at just 54, he is considering retirement. Even if the worst of the pandemic is over, the way he feels about the job and the whole organization has changed. He has given everything to his work, and now, he simply has nothing left to give. 

It’s understandable that Dr. J would feel this way. However, he may be making a decision based on the extreme circumstances of the past two years. Before he ends his career early, it is worth exploring the question, “If my circumstances improved, would I still want to retire?”

Dr. J may feel he’s been through too much to continue with his current employer. Retirement seems like the most logical option. After all, he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and thanks to smart financial planning, it’s a viable option. On the other hand, perhaps Dr. J simply needs time to recover from the trauma he’s endured in recent years. Instead of retirement, his employer may be willing to offer a sabbatical to give him time to rest and reflect on the positive aspects of practicing medicine. Management may also be open to making changes that would improve physician job satisfaction in the department and improve physician retention. 

If your current circumstances are unlikely to improve, it may be time to look for a new physician job–perhaps in a rural location. According to a Rural Physician Recruitment study from Jackson Physician Search and Locum Tenens, “improved work-life balance” is the most common reason rural physicians say they decided to practice rural medicine. Rural physicians are also more likely to say their organization is “patient-focused.” The autonomy, flexibility, and slower pace of life reported by many rural physicians could be exactly what you need to renew your love for practicing medicine.

Alternative #1: Change Your Circumstances / New Physician Job

Approach your manager to discuss your feelings of burnout and propose options for improving current circumstances. If they are unable or unwilling to make changes, you may want to connect with a physician recruiter to learn about other physician jobs that might rekindle your desire to practice. 

Would My Employer Support a Partial Retirement or Other Alternatives to Full Retirement?

According to a 2019 JPS retirement study, only 17% of physicians surveyed said they planned to take a full retirement, and nearly a third said they intended to continue working part-time. In the same study, administrators estimated 40% of their retiring physicians wanted to take full retirement. This indicates a disconnect between what physicians want and what their employers expect. However, in light of the physician shortage, most employers would be happy to take whatever level of work they can get from their physicians. This may be especially true in rural areas.    

Consider Dr. G, a Family Medicine physician who has spent the last 20 years working in a rural hospital treating patients of all ages and ailments. He moved his family to the small community when his kids were young, but now, they’ve grown up and started their careers in bigger cities. As he nears retirement age, he and his wife discuss their plans to travel more and perhaps move to be nearer the kids. He knows it’s time to stop working so much, but is he ready to stop working altogether?

For Dr. G, a partial retirement seems like the ideal option, one that his employer may indeed be willing to entertain. Whether it means simply cutting his hours, job sharing, or adopting telemedicine, Dr. G should initiate a discussion with his employer to discuss how those options might work for them. 

Alternative #2: Part-time Physician Job

Don’t be afraid to approach your employer about your desire to work less. They will likely be happy to hear you want to keep working in some capacity. Start the conversation early and keep an open mind as you discuss your options. If your current employer can’t provide what you need, enlist a national physician recruitment firm to help in your part-time physician job search. 

What Will I Do With My Time Post-Retirement?

Physicians spend countless hours training to practice medicine, and once certified, they often devote 50-60+ hours per week to the job. If anyone has earned the right to put their feet up and relax in retirement, it’s physicians. And yet, this hard-working, high-achieving group often has a difficult time coming to a full stop after devoting so much time and energy to their work for so long. 

Consider Dr. L, as Chief of Surgery at a busy suburban hospital, she can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t working towards a goal–first medical school, then residency and fellowship, her first job, and then slowly climbing the ladder to her current position. She had achieved success at every step of her plan, and the next step, thanks to savvy financial planning, was retirement at 60. By retiring relatively early, Dr. L intends to really enjoy her retirement, but will she succeed with this plan too?

Though Dr. L may not admit it–she may not even be aware of it–it’s likely she holds some unconscious fears about what exactly “enjoying retirement” will look like for her. Before making the decision, she should think through exactly what she will do with her time post-retirement. Perhaps she has a plan for a “second act,” a business venture, teaching opportunity, or non-profit work. However, she might also consider keeping her license active so she can pursue locum tenens assignments or even medical mission work–abroad or in one of the many healthcare deserts across the US. 

Alternative #3: Locum Tenens 

Make sure you know what you need to do to keep your license active in the first years of full retirement. If or when the initial excitement of retirement wanes, you may want to explore locum tenens jobs through our sister company LocumTenens.com

Retirement is a big decision and it’s never too early to start planning. Whether you’ve been dreaming about your retirement for years or you are just starting to think through the idea, a Jackson Physician Search Recruitment Consultant can help you understand your options as you transition to retirement. Contact us today.

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Physician Retirement: What Leads Physicians to Retire Early Versus Late?


For many physicians pondering retirement, age itself isn’t the number one driver of their desire to continue practicing medicine. Rather, they feel deeply drawn to care for their patients for as long as they’re willing and able, while others plan to reclaim those years “lost” to med school, residency, and fellowship by retiring as soon as possible to enjoy life. Whether or not you decide to retire early or retire late, the volume of physicians nearing this stage of life has never been higher.

According to a 2020 report published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 45% of practicing physicians are over 55. This means more than 2 of every 5 active physicians will be over 65 in the next decade. With 65 the reported median physician retirement age, this would suggest nearly half of all physicians who are currently practicing will be retired by 2030.  However, this may be a conservative estimate. According to a 2019 study published by AMA Insurance and highlighted by the American Medical Association, 30% of physicians retire between the ages of 60 and 65 and 12% retire before the age of 60. These looming retirements are one factor contributing to the much-discussed physician shortage.

You’ve heard it before, the aging Baby Boomer population combined with a significant percentage of physicians at or nearing retirement age amounts to an upcoming physician shortage of a magnitude for which no one has adequately planned. And now, COVID has introduced yet another factor likely worsening (or at least, speeding the arrival of) the shortage.

According to a 2021 Jackson Physician Search Whitepaper: On the Verge of a Physician Turnover Epidemic, the COVID-19 pandemic has made half of today’s physicians reconsider their career plans. Of those, 21% of physicians are considering early retirement and another 15% are considering changing professions altogether. A March 2021 poll conducted by MGMA appears to confirm the trend. In the poll, 28% of healthcare administrators said a physician at their organization had unexpectedly retired in the past year.

The pandemic has certainly placed a strain on physicians, but it has only fanned the flames of an already significant physician burnout problem. Pre-COVID data found 44% of physicians experienced burnout, and more recent studies suggest the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. To what degree does burnout cause physicians to retire early? And what other factors contribute to early retirements? On the other hand, some physicians may have delayed retirement due to the pandemic – citing economic instability or logistical concerns. Others felt a heightened sense of obligation to their patients or to the broader community during these troubling times.

This article will explore the factors contributing to both early and late retirements and perhaps help you identify with which path you are aligned.

What Causes Physicians to Retire Early?


As noted above, stressful circumstances – such as a global pandemic – certainly contribute to physician retirement decisions. Beyond the stress and burnout caused by the pandemic, personal health concerns were also a common factor, especially for older physicians who were at a higher risk of severe illness and death from the new virus. In an October 2020 article, the Washington Post featured several physicians for whom this was the case. Whether driven by their own fears or the fears of loved ones, these physicians opted to retire rather than put themselves at risk.

Stress and Burnout

While these stories are not uncommon, it’s rare for a single event to evoke such a response. More often, it’s the ongoing stress experienced by physicians that drives them to retire early. In looking at the AAMC data on physician age by specialty, several of the specialties noted to have high levels of burnout, such as critical care and emergency medicine, have a lower percentage of physicians practicing over 55 (21% and 35%, respectively) compared to the average for all specialties (45%). So, one might conclude physicians working in high-stress fields are more likely to retire early.

Financial Readiness

Perhaps most importantly, physicians make retirement decisions based on their perceived financial preparedness for this next stage of life. Of course, as discussed in an article for Medical Economics, financial readiness is largely subjective – that is, the figure required to retire comfortably depends on the level of comfort one requires. Still, median physician salaries are considerably higher than the national median, so even after factoring in hefty student loan debt, some physicians will reach financial readiness at a younger age and may therefore opt to retire early.  Physicians in the highest-earning specialties may reach this stage even earlier.


Being financially ready to retire doesn’t mean you have to retire or even want to retire. However, sometimes early retirement is forced upon you. Physicians may find themselves facing health challenges that force them into early retirement, or they may feel obliged to retire to care for a parent or spouse in poor health.

Future Plans

Some physicians retire from medicine early to pursue a “second act,” be it a new business venture, a teaching career, or non-profit work. Physicians are highly driven individuals, and once they achieve success in their given field, they may be drawn to pursue a new challenge. While the movement to achieve “financial independence and retire early” (FIRE) is not unique to physicians, it has received significant attention. An article for HCP Live outlines how the FIRE idea impacts different types of physicians.

Why Do Physicians Delay Retirement?

While there is much discussion about the impact of physicians retiring early, if the AMA Insurance report is correct, 58% of physicians will retire after 65. So, what causes physicians to extend their careers? At a high level, the answers look oddly familiar.


While some physicians took the pandemic as a reason to retire early, others saw it as a reason to put retirement plans on hold. Some felt a sense of obligation to patients in need, some worried about how economic instability would impact retirement funds, while others knew the logistics of selling a practice or recruiting their replacement would be next to impossible during a pandemic.


While high-stress physician jobs can certainly drive a physician into early retirement, the stress of retirement planning may cause some physicians to put off retirement indefinitely. This is especially true for physicians who own a practice and must address additional details of retirement planning such as selling their stake and transitioning long-term patients. Primary care physicians, who cultivate relationships with patients over the course of a lifetime, may find the concept of transitioning patients to a new provider particularly difficult.

Financial Readiness

The aforementioned Medical Economics article notes that while physicians’ affluence allows them to save more than the average working professional, many of them also spend more – and will likely continue to do so in retirement. Thus, the “magic number” that a physician feels he or she needs to save in order to retire comfortably will likely be relatively high, and depending on how much of their income they are able to save for retirement, it may take longer to achieve it.


According to a systematic review of 65 retirement studies, published by Human Resources for Health, one of the primary reasons physicians delay retirement is out of concern for their patients. They may also feel a broader moral obligation to provide care to communities in crisis – either due to the global pandemic, a physician shortage, or other difficulties – leading many to work past retirement age or even come out of retirement to serve.

 Future Plans

The hardworking, high-achieving individuals who pursue physician careers don’t achieve their goals by sitting around and relaxing, and many physicians approaching retirement age have no desire to start now! They can’t imagine a future without work in some capacity. In fact, a 2019 retirement survey conducted by Jackson Physician Search, found nearly a third (28%) of respondents planned to continue working part-time post-retirement. Only 17% expected to take full retirement. As long as they are able, they will practice medicine.

Regardless of physicians’ reasons for retiring, the looming mass exodus could not come at a worse time. The most recent AAMC study on the physician shortage projects a deficit of 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by 2034. That shortage includes shortfalls of 17,800 to 48,000 primary care physicians and 21,000 to 77,100 specialists.

What does this mean for physicians approaching retirement? Are you morally obligated to keep working? Breathe easy. According to AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, the multi-pronged solution doesn’t rest on aging physicians, but rather, it starts with educating and training enough new physicians to meet the increasing demand, diversifying the physician workforce, and improving the nation’s preparedness for future public health crises.

That said, while the problem cannot be solved at an individual level, physicians who worry about boredom or losing their sense of purpose post-retirement may want to consider ways to continue to provide care in some capacity – via telemedicine or significantly scaled back hours – as long as they are willing and able. Your community will thank you. And to those who are ready to hang up the white coat for good, you too should be thanked for your service and wished well in retirement!

If you are approaching retirement and looking for a job opportunity that allows for more flexibility as you make the transition, a conversation with a Jackson Physician Search recruiter may be just what you need. Contact us today or search our open positions now.

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