News Briefs Archive

How Many Doctors Did COVID Push Into Early Retirement?

June 22, 2022

While some surveys and news headlines have suggested an unprecedented wave of early retirements or career changes during the past two+ years, some experts are casting doubt on that scenario.

So, was there a mass shuttering of medical practices during the pandemic or not? The answer is not simple, according to reporting by Kara Grant in Medscape.

A survey conducted by Medscape this spring found that 18 percent of nearly 500 U.S. physicians said they intended to retire within the next 12 months, whereas 24 percent said they planned to cut back on their work hours in the coming year.

Retirement from practice doesn’t necessarily mean a departure from medicine itself. Indeed, 43 percent of those in the Medscape survey who said they planned to quit also said they wanted to stay involved in the field in some capacity.

Not surprisingly, most of the physicians who say they plan to leave their practices are older doctors. Nearly 45 percent of doctors across all specialties are older than age 55, data from a 2020 AAMC report found, leading researchers to conclude that more than two out of every five doctors who are actively practicing will be over 65 in the next 10 years.

Rebecca Etz, PhD, a cultural anthropologist who co-directs Virginia Commonwealth’s Green Center and leads the survey, says it is difficult to get reliable data on employment trends for primary care and medical specialties in general.

For Etz and many other experts who study the pitfalls of the healthcare industry, doctors may be seeking retirement because of how the pandemic has chipped away at the patient–doctor relationship.

“What keeps [doctors] going is their connection with their patients. When that’s destroyed or damaged, that’s when they lose their resilience and they can’t sustain their practice,” Etz says.


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