Study: Older physicians working longer, females make up a majority of young doctors

Virginia physicians over the age of 55 are increasingly working full time hours later in life while fewer young practitioners are working full time hours. Females make up a majority of Virginia’s physicians under age 35 for the first time in Virginia’s history. These are among the findings of the Department of Health Professions’ (DHP Healthcare Workforce Data Center (HWDC) report Virginia’s Physician Workforce: 2009 – 2010 newly published on the Center’s Web site (www.dhp.state.va.us/hwdc/default.htm).

Over 26,000 Medical Doctors (M.D.) and Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.) or three quarters of all physicians licensed by the state Board of Medicine participated in the voluntary survey on their workforce habits, trends and preferences reports DHP Director, Dianne L. Reynolds-Cane, M.D.

Top DHP HWDC M.D. and D.O. statistical survey findings show:

– 22% completed medical school in Virginia, and 32% completed residencies in Virginia;

– Women made up 53% of the Commonwealth’s physician workforce under age 35;

– The median age of Virginia’s physician workforce was 49 years of age in 2010 compared to an average of 42 years of age for other sectors of the work force; and,

– Asian-Americans make up a growing share of physicians, including 22% of those under the age of 40, while other racial and ethnic groups are underrepresented when compared to Virginia’s population.

DHP HWDC Director, Elizabeth Carter, Ph.D. says, “These trends could be tied to both the recent economic recession and the lifestyle preferences of the next generation of practitioners. They coincide with a time when the medical needs of baby boomers continue to expand and the physicians who deliver their care are also aging.

According to the DHP HWDC report, 41% of Virginia’s physicians completed either medical school or a residency in the state, highlighting the importance of Virginia’s medical schools and teaching hospitals to maintain Virginia’s physician workforce. Neighboring states and the District of Columbia are also important contributors to Virginia’s physician workforce; 76% of Virginia’s physicians completed at least part of their medical training in Virginia or a neighboring jurisdiction.

DHP HWDC research is being followed closely by the Medical Society of Virginia (MSV) where work is being done to identify opportunities for addressing physician recruitment and retention and for fostering a health care team approach that expands access to care. MSV President Hugh Bryan III, M.D., of Gloucester, says, “Patient access to care is a critical step in helping MSV achieve its vision of making Virginia the best place to practice medicine and receive care. The DHP data helps us understand the current physician workforce and will help us develop strategies to meet future patient needs.”

The Department of Health Professions Healthcare Workforce Data Center survey was issued electronically when physicians renewed their license during the data collection period. There was an 86.5% response rate among renewing physicians.

The DHP HWDC works to improve the data collection and measurement of Virginia’s healthcare workforce through regular assessment of workforce supply and demand issues among the more than 80 professions and nearly 350,000 practitioners licensed in Virginia by DHP.

DHP healthcare workforce data is provided online to ensure accessibility of the findings among healthcare decision makers, hospital systems, academic institutions and constituents statewide.

The mission of the Department of Health Professions is to ensure safe and competent patient care by licensing health professionals, enforcing standards of practice, and providing information to health care practitioners and the public.


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