Health Systems and Policy Research

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A Systematic Review of Physician Retirement Planning

Michelle Pannor Silver, Angela Hamilton, Aviroop Biswass and Natalie Irene Warrick

Background: This systematic review identified empirical studies to elaborate on the understudied aspect of retirement timing related to physician’s preparation and engagement with the retirement planning process. Four questions were addressed: 1) When do physicians retire? 2) Why do some physicians retire early? 3) Why do some physicians delay their retirement? 4) What are some strategies that facilitate physician retention and/or retirement planning?

Methods and Findings: English-language studies were searched in electronic databases through June 2015 to meet the following inclusion criteria: peerreviewed primary journal articles, published with quantitative or qualitative analyses of planning and opinions about physician retirement. Three independent reviewers assessed each study for methodological quality and a third reviewer resolved inconsistencies. In total, 60 studies meet the inclusion criteria and were analyzed. Representative sampling was used in 75% of studies, however most did not control for confounding variables. The majority were methodologically strong. Physicians commonly reported retiring between 60 and 69 years. Excessive workload and burnout were frequently cited reasons for early retirement. Obstacles to continuing practice included: career dissatisfaction, workplace frustration, and workload pressure; whereas, ongoing financial obligations delayed retirement.

Conclusions: This is the first review of literature related to early, late, and on-time retirement of physicians. Health organizations aiming to either delay or encourage retirement should accommodate flexible working hours, provide resources and information about financial planning, and consider stipulations in practice plans that clarify timing and transitions from medicine.