Background: Anesthesiology is among the medical specialties expected to have physician shortage. With little known about older anesthesiologists’ work effort and retirement decision making, the American Society of Anesthesiologists participated in a 2006 national survey of physicians aged 50–79 yr.
Methods: Samples of anesthesiologists and other specialists completed a survey of work activities, professional satisfaction, self-defined health and financial status, retirement plans and perspectives, and demographics. A complex survey design enabled adjustments for sampling and response-rate biases so that respondents’ characteristics resembled those in the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile. Retirement decision making was modeled with multivariable ordinal logistic regression. Life-table analysis provided a forecast of likely clinical workforce trends over an ensuing 30 yr.
Results: Anesthesiologists (N = 3,222; response rate = 37%) reported a mean work week of 49.4 h and a mean retirement age of 62.7 yr, both values similar to those of other older physicians. Work week decreased with age, and part-time work increased. Women worked a shorter work week (mean, 47.9 vs. 49.7 h, P = 0.024), partly due to greater part-time work (20.2 vs. 13.1%, P value less than 0.001). Relative importance of factors reported among those leaving patient care differed by age cohort, subspecialty, and work status. Poor health was cited by 64% of anesthesiologists retiring in their 50s as compared with 43% of those retiring later (P = 0.039).
Conclusions: This survey lends support for greater attention to potentially modifiable factors, such as workplace wellness and professional satisfaction, to prevent premature retirement. The growing trend in part-time work deserves further study.