Doctors Delaying Retirement as Locums

Physician and Psychiatric Times contributor Lisa Grabl is looking forward to the day when she can retire from a career that she loves so as to spend more time with her family and doing the kinds of things she enjoys outside of work. At the same time, she isn’t looking to retire right away. She loves what she does. Dr. Grabl is not alone.

At Tiva Healthcare, a physician staffing service that specializes in locum tenens jobs, they regularly work with doctors who are using locum assignments to simultaneously reduce the amount of time they spend working and delay retirement for several years. It is a fascinating phenomenon.

Enjoying Being a Doctor

In her Psychiatric Times piece, Grabl cited data that partially explains Tiva Healthcare’s experience with older doctors looking to take locum assignments. The cited research shows that older doctors intend to retire somewhere around age 68, as opposed to 63 for the rest of the workforce. When asked why they would consider extending their careers, the top three responses were as follows:

  • They enjoy the practice of medicine – 58%
  • They enjoy the social aspects of their work – 56%
  • They enjoy the lifestyle their work affords them – 50%.

We often hear statistics revealing that doctors are less satisfied with their work than ever before. We have no reason to disbelieve those statistics, but they create an interesting conundrum: how can so many doctors say they are dissatisfied with their work while 58% of older doctors preparing for retirement say they enjoy the practice of medicine? The answer is found in the locum tenens model.

It’s the Practice of Medicine

The overall number of doctors dissatisfied with their work is undeniable. What must be understood is that their dissatisfaction has nothing to do with the practice of medicine. They are dissatisfied with the jobs they hold. Let’s face it, the modern healthcare environment is a high-pressure environment that takes its toll over time. Thirty years working in a group practice is not an easy thing to do. Spending one’s entire career as a hospitalist is not easy either.

What’s different about delaying retirement through locum tenens assignments is the fact that doctors can continue practicing medicine without having to deal with all the negative aspects of holding a steady, full-time job. They can spend the last few years of their working careers actually practicing medicine rather than fighting with insurance companies, dealing with cost-cutting hospital administrators, etc.

Remember the data cited by Dr. Grabl: the majority of surveyed doctors indicated they enjoy the practice of medicine and the social aspects of their work. Both are important facets of locum tenens work. The locum physician still gets to practice medicine every day he or she goes to work. There is still an opportunity to interact with patients on a social level. But at the end of the day, the doctor goes home and leaves his or her work at the office.

The Perfect Way to Transition

A good number of older locum doctors use locum assignments to transition to retirement. They work part time in order to remain current in terms of their skills and knowledge, and they can still earn some extra income that will help them maintain their chosen lifestyles longer. What’s not to love?

Locum tenens work is the perfect way to transition from a long-established career to eventual retirement. A lot of older doctors are doing it, and extending their careers at the same time. In the end it’s all about the practice of medicine rather than the business or career of medicine.