The Dark Daily recently covered some news that may have an effect on healthcare delivery in the future. It's all about the average number of hours that physicians, particularly younger ones, are willing and able to spend on the job (see: Dartmouth Researchers Say that Doctors Now Work Fewer Hours Than Lawyers). Here's a link to the original article in JAMA (see: Trends in the Work Hours of Physicians in the United States) and below is an excerpt from the Dark Daily story:
[The Dartmouth] researchers...found no statistical support for two common beliefs within the physician community. First, that the aging physician population may be reducing their work hours, and second, that the increased number of female physicians who might leave to start families, is responsible for the decreased hours. “Those were the first stories I heard when I began this study,” he said. “While it may be true that women doctors are working fewer hours because of families, we saw almost identical drops for males and females.” ....[T]he decline in the overall number of hours worked each week was twice as high for physicians under the age of 45 as it was among older doctors. This leads Dark Daily to speculate that we now may be witnessing a major shift involving the younger Generation X and Generation Y doctors. Where Boomer docs—like other professionals of that generation—were frequently willing to work 80 hours or more per week throughout their careers, this motivation does not exist in Gen X and Gen Y doctors. This observation must also be viewed with the fact that Gen X and Gen Y doctors will likely not see the kind of salaries once enjoyed by Baby Boomer physicians at the peak of their careers. Thus, it should be no surprise that growing numbers of physicians prefer to spend more time away from work, pursuing other activities.
I think that the Dark Daily comes to exactly the right conclusions. The "Boomer docs" (those born between 1946 and 1964; see: Baby boomer) were accustomed to working hard and long weeks and, in turn, expected to be highly compensated for their efforts. By way of contract, Gen X and Y docs, regardless of gender, appear to be working fewer hours and receive less pay. Many of them are, and will continue to be, hospital employees -- hospitalists. Such physicians also work very hard and manage more complex cases than would occur in an office practice. However and when their hospital shift is over, they hand-off the care of their patients to the next shift of hospitalists and nurses. Of course, a remaining question is whether these Gen X and Y would opt for longer hours and more compensation if such opportunities were broadly available to them. Such opportunities may no longer be common in the emerging healthcare industry (see: Physician Private Practice Declines; the Last Barrier to Emergence of "Big Medicine").