Many Anesthesiologists Wouldn’t Choose Medicine Again--As Physician Shortage Continues, More Anesthesiologists Seek Work-Life Balance

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Reflecting the frustrations of modern medical practice, 30% of anesthesiologists responding to a 2005 survey conducted by physician recruiting firm LocumTenens.com said they would not choose medicine if they could decide their career paths all over again. When compared to locum tenens industry studies asking the same question of physicians across a range of specialties, LocumTenens.com’s 2005 figure represents increases of 25% since 1997 and 6% since 2003.

I’m usually on the road four weeks at a time, but then I take a week off with my family

Reflecting the frustrations of modern medical practice, 30% of anesthesiologists responding to a 2005 survey conducted by physician recruiting firm LocumTenens.com said they would not choose medicine if they could decide their career paths all over again. When compared to locum tenens industry studies asking the same question of physicians across a range of specialties, LocumTenens.com’s 2005 figure represents increases of 25% since 1997 and 6% since 2003.

Work-Life Balance

“Anesthesiologists are among the highest-paid specialists, but considering the long hours and stress associated with the job, a growing number of them are realizing money alone isn’t enough,” LocumTenens.com Vice President Lisa Kaeck said. “Work-life balance is increasingly important to today’s anesthesiologist—and a growing number of them are finding that balance through locum tenens work.”

Kaeck suggested this trend has helped 11-year-old LocumTenens.com increase revenue by 600% over the last five years (2000 to 2005).

While half of anesthesiologists responding to the LocumTenens.com survey indicated they had no plans to make a job change, half said they planned to change jobs in the next three years—16% within 6 months. Forty-five percent of those in the job market cited lifestyle issues (“better community for self/family” or “better work environment”) as their main motivation.

More than four years ago Dr. John Chunga, who has two teenagers and 4-year-old twins, discovered better work-life balance with minimal financial sacrifice through locum tenens work. “I’m usually on the road four weeks at a time, but then I take a week off with my family,” said the board-certified anesthesiologist who’s licensed in six states.

Anesthesiologist Shortage

For several years U.S. healthcare facilities have been experiencing a shortage of anesthesiologists. A national survey of hospital administrators commissioned by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) in 2002 indicated that 59% of U.S. hospitals were recruiting anesthesiologists, and most of those (57%) had been doing so for more than six months. Almost half of respondents had had to limit either the number of operating rooms (OR’s) in service or some OR operating hours.

Demand for anesthesia services continues to increase as the U.S. population ages. Physician recruiting industry data indicate a 13-percent increase in demand for anesthesia services between 1990 and 2002. A 2003 study published in the Annals of Surgery predicted a 14-percent increase in surgical volume by 2010 and a 47-percent increase by 2020.

Meanwhile, the supply of anesthesiologists is not keeping up. American Medical Association data indicate the number of residents entering anesthesiology practice between 1990 and 2002 declined by 15%. Of the roughly 30,000 practicing U.S. anesthesiologists, approximately 12% are residents. Approximately 60% are age 45 or older, while more than a quarter are age 55 or older.

In its Web-based survey LocumTenens.com polled more than 3,200 anesthesiologists. To view the survey in its entirety, visit http://www.locumtenens.com/about/surveys.

Founded in 1995, LocumTenens.com is a full-service physician recruitment firm specializing in supplemental placement of anesthesiologists, radiologists, psychiatrists, surgeons and CRNAs (certified registered nurse anesthetists) with U.S. hospitals, medical groups and community health centers. LocumTenens.com is part of the Jackson Healthcare Solutions family of companies. To learn more, visit the company's web sites at http://www.locumtenens.com/ and http://www.crnajobs.com/.

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Billie Wickstrom
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