Retirement Decisions & Workforce Implications in Anesthesiology

Retirement Decisions & Workforce Implications in Anesthesiology

Anesthesiology is one of 21 medical specialties in the United States that is currently experiencing a physician shortage or expected to have one in the near future. The causes of physician workforce shortages are multifactorial and include the aging physician population, burdensome debt from medical school, a static production of new physicians, and reduced physician work hours, among others. Expectations for work–life balance, hours spent at work, a culture involving high stress, and burnout are other key contributors to physician shortages. “It’s important to increase our understanding of the issues contributing to the physician shortage in anesthesiology,” says Fredrick K. Orkin, MD, MBA, SM. “By identifying practice patterns and retirement plans of older anesthesiologists, we can use this information to guide how we manage consequences resulting from the undersupply of these specialists. These data could also be used by physicians and their employers to prepare for shortages in the future.” Analyzing Trends in Retirement A study published in Anesthesiology by Dr. Orkin and colleagues surveyed thousands of anesthesiologists and other specialists aged 50 and older to determine trends in work activities, professional satisfaction, health and financial status, and retirement plans and perspectives. The goals included identifying the major factors influencing decisions to continue practicing or to retire and evaluating the impact of retirement decision making on the size of the current and future workforce. Several important findings emerged from the study by Dr. Orkin and colleagues. First, older physicians logged significantly more hours of work during the week than other professionals. On average, older anesthesiologists and other older physicians worked about the same number of hours per week (49.4),...

Looking at Alcohol Use Disorders Among Surgeons

The prevalence of substance use disorders in the United States has been well documented in published research. Nearly 8% to 12% of Americans aged 12 and older meet criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, with men being twice as likely to depend upon or abuse alcohol as women. The prevalence of substance use disorders among U.S. physicians has been estimated to range from 10% to 15%, but less is known about alcohol dependence and abuse in particular. “Although actual injury to patients from impaired physicians is incredibly rare, alcohol abuse and dependence are important factors to consider when thinking about patient safety in surgery,” says Michael R. Oreskovich, MD. “These disorders can play a major role in causing clinically significant impairment or distress in social, occupational, and other areas of functioning.” Alcohol Use Disorder: A Problem for Surgeons Nationwide Dr. Oreskovich and colleagues conducted a study, published in the February 2012 Archives of Surgery, in which American surgeons completed online surveys anonymously. “We wanted to gain a better picture of the actual prevalence of alcohol dependence and abuse,” he says. “We also wanted to explore personal and professional characteristics, surgeon distress, and recent self-reported events.” According to the results, about 15% of respondents overall appeared to suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, a figure that exceeds what has typically been cited for the general public. “Surprisingly, male surgeons were less likely to have these disorders than female surgeons,” Dr. Oreskovich says. “About 14% of male surgeons reported having alcohol issues, compared with a 26% rate that was observed for female surgeons.” In addition, the study found that alcohol issues...