More physicians seeking hospital employment

Desiring higher quality of life, more doctors are seeking hospital employment rather than breaking out on their own in private practice, according to several new findings.

Merritt Hawkins, a Dallas-based physician recruiting firm, reports that hospital positions made up more than 50% of the positions it filled within the past year, compared to 43% in 2006, and up from only 14% in 2003, according to firm's spokesman Phil Miller.

The primary reason? Young doctors in particular cite quality of life as the most important factor in choosing a job, with many refusing jobs that require them to be on call. 

A study published in a recent issue of New England Journal of Medicine shows a similar trend over the past decade, rising from just over 20% in 2002 to over 50% in 2008, the last year for which the study had data. 

A recent New York Times article highlights the dramatic changes in physician employment as being driven by doctors' evolving professional and personal goals.  The Times article chronicles the lives of three generations of Pennsylvania doctors: starting with the grandfather, a family physician in the 1940s who worked 80+ hours per week, and ending with a granddaughter, a hospital-based ER doctor named Kate Dewar, who works 36 hours per week so she can be home with her new twins.

"On the one hand, it bothers me that the generation of doctors that my daughter is in doesn't work as many hours and isn't willing to do the stuff that I did," Dr. Dewar's father, also a doctor, told the newspaper. "On the other hand, I'm almost a little jealous."

In the 1990s, hospitals pushed to hire doctors to fill out their referral networks, as managed care took over, Miller says. Now, the trend is "more physician-driven" as doctors choose to forego the "hassles of private practice" such as insurance and government billing requirements and the administration of a large office.

For more information:

- Read the New York Times article
- Read this New England Journal of Medicine article
- Read this blog post on the Incidental Economist