National CompHealth Study Reveals Older Physicians Hesitant to Retire

August 1st, 2017 4 Min read National CompHealth Study Reveals Older Physicians Hesitant to Retire Blog

A new study from CompHealth, a national leader in healthcare staffing, reveals that late-career physicians are hesitant to retire because they will miss the work they do and the social dynamic that comes with their work environment. They are also less interested in retiring because they are confident they can still contribute to the medical field.

Doctors stay in the workforce five years longer than the average American, retiring at 68 rather than the average retirement age of 63. According to the survey, the three most common reasons for physicians to prolong their time in the workforce are:

  1. Enjoyment of the practice of medicine (58 percent of respondents listed this as the top reason)
  2. Enjoyment of the social aspects of working (56 percent)
  3. Desire to maintain their existing lifestyle (50 percent). 

However, 38 percent of physicians are concerned about staying competitive in a changing healthcare environment beyond traditional retirement age.

"More than one-third of physicians are reaching retirement age, which could lead to a significant physician shortage in the United States," said Lisa Grabl, president at CompHealth. "However, our survey found that many of these late-career physicians are extremely satisfied with their positions and don't want to leave, and many are open to remaining in medicine, in some form or another, after retirement. Keeping these physicians engaged and active in the workforce could mitigate a future physician shortage." 

The survey found that when it comes to concerns about retiring, physicians worry most about their social interactions at work. This tops the list of greatest retirement concern for respondents, followed by loss of purpose, boredom, loneliness or depression. Concern about caring for patients was at the bottom of the list.

 Additional insights from the survey include:

  • Physicians still want to work in retirement. While many respondents are looking forward to some aspects of retirement, many also indicated that they wouldn't want to give up working entirely. Roughly half of respondents (51 percent) note that still working occasionally or part-time would also be part of their ideal retirement plans.
  • Some doctors are concerned about working past retirement age. While most physicians indicated they were willing to work past age 65, many were concerned with the ability to remain competitive, their own personal health and the ability to offer quality patient care.
  • In retrospect many physicians would have treated their careers differently. Having greater work-life balance was the top choice for what physicians would have changed about their careers, followed by saving for retirement earlier and changing their medical specialty.
  • Money is not an issue. Most physicians are financially prepared for retirement and not concerned about money.
  • Surgical specialists are most reluctant to leave the workforce. Out of the various physician specialties surveyed, surgical specialty physicians (including surgeons and anesthesiologists) are the least ready to leave their professions and seem to have the highest satisfaction in their careers, with 88 percent identifying as "satisfied" or "completely satisfied" with their careers. Surgical specialists are also least excited for retirement (32 percent) and are least emotionally prepared for retirement (40 percent).
  • Physicians aren't excited to stop working but do want more time for travel and hobbies. Less than one-third (32 percent) of respondents are excited about retirement because they will not have to work anymore. In contrast, 76 percent of respondents indicate that they would like to travel more in full retirement, while 66 percent say pursuing other interests and spending more time on personal hobbies and with family and friends are a great appeal.
  • Late-career doctors are still confident in their skills. Most responding physicians remain confident in their skills and contributions to the medical field. Importantly, 91 percent say they can still provide useful services to their patients and the community and 89 percent said they can still be competitive in the healthcare field.

The study was conducted by Hanover Research on behalf of CompHealth surveying more than 400 late-career physicians age 50 and older in various specialties, including psychiatry, emergency medicine, OBGYN, surgery and primary care.

The full report can be viewed here.

About CompHealth

Founded in 1979, CompHealth is a national leader in healthcare staffing, serving providers in more than 100 specialties. CompHealth is the largest locum tenens staffing agency in the U.S. and also specializes in permanent physician placement and both temporary and permanent allied healthcare staffing. CompHealth is part of the CHG Healthcare Services family of companies, which is ranked No. 18 on FORTUNE magazine's list of "100 Best Companies to Work For." For more information, visit