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Retiring Physicians Could Help Fill the Ranks of Primary Care

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In writing these posts, we sometimes assume most of our readers are either newly minted physicians who are looking for jobs or physicians midway through their careers who are looking to switch jobs.

But here’s a possibility: maybe you’re a physician on the verge of retiring from your full-time position; thoughts of full-time retirement, however, aren’t that appealing to you.

Maybe you’d like more free time, but you don’t want to axe yourself from the game entirely. This is not unheard of, Chelsea Rice reports over at HealthLeadersMedia . Yes, it’s true that 60 percent of physicians “say they would retire today if they could… But more than half have more realistic plans” that include part-time work, concierge medicine, or simply reducing their patient volume.

The Physicians Foundation conducted the survey Rice is referencing, and in that survey, the group also found of all the specialists out there—and this may surprise you—primary-care physicians tend to be the most positive about the state of their profession, “even though they are facing some of the same stressors and are paid on average 30 percent less.”

If you’re a retiring physician who is among the many physicians not ready to leave your life’s work, maybe you should consider primary care. Transitioning to primary care is easier than you might think, says retired plastic surgeon Leonard Glass, MD.

“Why can't we dip into the tens of thousands of retired physicians out there who are still capable to do productive work and utilize the Internet and software to retrain them for work in primary care?” he wonders.

That’s why Glass has established the Physician Retraining & Reentry online course. Rice reports the goal of the program is “to retrain [seasoned specialists] for part-time careers in adult primary care” by providing “an individual-directed curriculum covering all angles of family medicine, and [testing] students with exams at the end of each of the 15 modules. The only time students are required to attend in person is for a final clinical exam at the UC San Diego School of Medicine primary care simulation lab.”

The program, which was developed by Glass and two professors at UC San Diego’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, takes anywhere from four months to a year to complete, depending on the pace at which the student works, and only costs $7,500.

How effective it will be is anyone’s guess, and there is always the concern about quality care, but Glass’ endeavor is an interesting proposal as the primary-care community eagerly searches for a way to fill its ranks with qualified professionals.

“The end goal for the program is to produce primary-care physicians qualified for part-time work at already-established practices, community health centers, and retail health clinics,” Rice writes. “Glass says providing physicians with this option for a semi-retired life in medicine allows physicians to get back to what they love to do, treating patients, without the attendant stress of running a practice themselves or of being overburdened at the end of their careers.”

Are you a seasoned professional who is nearing retirement, but would like to continue providing care? Have you considered transitioning to primary care? Would a program like Glass’ be something you’d consider taking? Do you think we’ll see an uptick in retiring physicians retraining for primary care?

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