Background: Approximately 56 percent of all currently active plastic surgeons in the United States are older than 50 years and are likely to retire in the next 10 to 20 years. The 2006 Survey of Plastic Surgeons Over the Age of 50 was designed to provide insight regarding the practice patterns, retirement plans, and issues of importance to plastic surgeons older than 50 to provide an indicator of future workforce needs for the specialty.
Methods: The survey was part of a larger study of physicians older than 50 across all specialties conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges Center for Workforce Studies, in collaboration with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Medical Association, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, and seven additional medical specialty associations. Surveys were mailed to 1434 active and retired plastic surgeons aged 50 to 79 years; the response rate was 59.1 percent. Results were compared with responses from physicians of all specialties.
Results: Full-time reconstructive plastic surgeons older than 50 spend more hours per week practicing medicine (56.5 hours per week) than cosmetic plastic surgeons (49.7 hours per week) and all physicians (53.7 hours per week). Plastic surgeons retire slightly earlier than other physicians and cite rising malpractice costs, insufficient reimbursement, and increasing competition as important factors when considering retirement.
Conclusions: There are significant differences in the practices, satisfaction, and factors influencing retirement plans for plastic surgeons that focus on cosmetic versus reconstructive surgery. Further study of these two components of plastic surgery may be warranted.