Physician re-entry remains 'expensive and time-consuming'

Physicians' path to re-entry after a prolonged break from practicing hasn't gotten much smoother amid a growing workforce shortage in primary care, according to an article from Kaiser Health News.

The best approach, FiercePracticeManagement reported previously, is for physicians to keep their credentials up-to-date even if they suspend their practices. And that's exactly the approach Maria DiMeglio, M.D., took, according to KHN. Although she thought she was retiring when leaving her OB/GYN practice six years ago to care for family members, she retained her medical license and kept up with continuing education courses.

But like many physicians who told similar stories to KHN, DiMeglio said getting her job and hospital privileges back wasn't easy. She enrolled in a retraining program run by her old hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, during which she saw patients under the supervision of other physicians. Enrollees spend between six weeks and three months at the Cedars-Sinai program, at a cost of $5,000 a month.

The retraining program, "wasn't difficult, but it was expensive and time-consuming," DiMeglio said. "Not everyone can do that."

While many re-entry programs are hospital-run, other options exist. The Physician Retraining & Reentry Program, created by former medical school professor Leonard Glass, offers an online course for a cost of $7,000. In addition to retraining primary care doctors, the online program has attracted specialists who wanted to switch to primary care and restless retirees, Glass told KHN.

Efforts by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics aim to make physician re-entry less cumbersome going forward, KHN reported. Meanwhile, the Federation of State Medical Boards wants to create a standard process for physicians to demonstrate their readiness to return to practice. Proposed legislation by Maryland congressman John Sarbanes also focuses on the issue.

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