A large, first-of-its-kind national survey of older anesthesiologists has gathered important data that could be used by physicians and their employers to prepare for an expected undersupply of anesthesiologists in the near future. The resulting study was published in the November issue of Anesthesiology.
Findings from the study include:
•Older anesthesiologists' long workweeks (49.4 hours per week on average) are similar to other physicians, but substantially longer than other professionals, such as attorneys (44.9), engineers (43) and registered nurses (37.3).
•Older anesthesiologists devote 81 percent of their time on average to clinical care, particularly those specializing in critical care medicine or pain management.
•Anesthesiologists participated in clinical care well into their 60s; forecasts predict that 30 percent of anesthesiologists are expected to work past age 65, approximately 18 percent past 70 years, and perhaps 10 percent will likely work at age 80.
•Concurrently, it was found that as anesthesiologists age, time spent in clinical care decreased and the number of anesthesiologists working part-time increased, particularly for women. One-sixth of the survey population reported working in a self-defined part-time mode.
"Anesthesiology is among 21 medical specialties experiencing or expected to experience physician shortages in the near future," said lead study author Fredrick K. Orkin, M.D., an adjunct professor at Yale University School of Medicine. "Workforce shortages reflect many trends, including an aging physician population, medical debt, static production of new physicians, reduced physician work hours, a growing and aging patient population with complex medical conditions, and expansion of and enhanced access to health care services."