Imagine spending over a decade receiving proper education for your job, putting in years gaining experience, and then just when you feel that you are truly an expert of your specialty, being made to retire. This is something physicians deal with all the time.
For the past few months, the American Medical Association (AMA) has been continuously bringing up the idea of testing the competency of aging physicians. Currently, there are no standards of assessing a physician’s knowledge, or mandatory retirement age, but this may be changing in the near future.
The allegations that older physicians may not be as capable as they used to be have caused the AMA to develop a plan for Competency tests. Physicians will be reevaluated periodically after a certain age that has yet to be specified (i.e. 65 or 70). The AMA wants these evaluations to serve more as a set of guidelines to ensure that patients are getting proper care, and physicians don’t get in trouble for malpractice. This test will most likely include hearing, motor skills, memory and sight assessments. Failing these tests, may lead to required retirement for physicians.
Opinions on Required Retirement for Physicians
Most physicians are having mixed feelings about these assessments, including frustration and confusion. A large amount of physicians feel that they, themselves, would choose to end their career if they felt they were no longer competent of their duties. Earlier this year, Jacksonville.com had interviews with physicians asking their opinions on the matter. This was the response of Dr. Glenn Pohlman.
“You have asked a question that has been near and dear to my own heart. At an age when we face a shortage of good medical personnel, we now face the problems that every retiring medical doctor faces. This is the issue of working “part time” as the malpractice insurance has no fee for coverage if you’re part time. Therefore, it’s either full time to cover the basic costs or nothing. Ergo, just quit and let all your knowledge and experience got to waste and live the rest of your life having nothing to offer. The laws do not allow a retiring age doctor to work as a physician’s assistant using all his talent in doing histories and physicals and then leaving the final treatment decisions to a supervising medical doctor. I am retired as a board certified neurologist and can’t even get a job as an assistant to someone who draws blood in the laboratory. Is this insanity? There are hundreds of “retired” MDs who could use the part-time work or even volunteer to bolster the medical staffs in emergency rooms or act as triage personnel. Let’s find a niche for their talents before we miss the opportunity. They don’t need “malpractice” coverage to work in so many of the lesser capacities. What is wrong with us? Are we so determined to protect the lawyers who live off malpractice lawsuits, that we cannot utilize the thousands of “retired” doctors in lesser capacities and protect them and utilize their talents? Should there be a mandatory retirement age? Only if we find uses for their talents as I have noted above.” – Glenn Pohlman, Jacksonville.
A Profession in Demand
So what does this mean for an occupation that is currently in high demand? Well, according to the AMA, about 25 percent of the physicians in the United States are over the age of 65. Forcing required retirement for physicians might cause a crisis in the medical world, considering there is already a shortage of qualified medical professionals in the states. Although, the AMA insists that these competency tests will simply be to make sure a physician is still knowledgeable about their specialty, to help them from getting sued for accidental malpractice, and to make sure patients remain in the safe hands.