Urologist work force retirement study sounds alarm

June 29, 2016

More than one-fourth of the U.S. urologist work force plans to retire in next 5 years, according to a new study looking at the near-term impact of retirement on the specialty.

More than one-quarter of the U.S. urologist work force plans to retire in next 5 years, according to a new study looking at the near-term impact of retirement on the specialty.

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The authors, who published their findings online in Urology (May 25, 2016), also uncovered a troubling statistic potentially impacting rural America. They found that nearly double the proportion of nearing retirement urologists (5 years or less) are found in rural areas, compared to non-retiring urologists.

Dr. Breyer“The other interesting finding is that 68% of the nearing retirement urologists are still performing inpatient operations, so it describes them as a cohort. They are still very clinically active, they’re still engaged in their practices, and, in many respects, operating at 100% or equal to those much younger than they are,” said senior author Benjamin N. Breyer MD, MAS, of the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Breyer and colleagues analyzed data from the AUA’s 2014 census, which asked urologists about their retirement plans and about their practices. A total of 2,204 census responses were weighted to represent 11,703 urologists practicing in the U.S. that year.

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They found 3,181 of the 11,703 practicing urologists in this country are nearing planned retirement. The average age of those who plan to retire in the next 5 years is 69 years, versus an average 48 years for non-retiring urologists. And urologists nearing retirement are more likely to practice general urology than their non-retiring peers.

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“I think government agencies need to pay attention to studies like this, and we need more governmental support to train more residents. Currently [government support for urology residency training] is not expanding,” Dr. Breyer said.

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Other possible solutions to temper the field’s exodus include using more non-physician providers to help make up the work force gap, according to Dr. Breyer.

“That may be part of the solution but certainly not the whole solution,” he said.

As to how this retirement data compares to previous years’, Dr. Breyer says he thinks this is the first analysis to look at current retirement plans for the near term and how they might affect the specialty.

The need to fuel urology’s pipeline has come up before.

Urology Times reported in a recent article that urology ranks among the specialties at highest risk of a shortage by 2025. This is according to a physician work force report, released April 5 by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which suggests those leaving urology because of retirement or death outnumber urologists entering the specialty.

The takeaway for urologists, according to Dr. Breyer, is that they’re valuable.

“Their skills are going to be in demand, with the population aging. Urologists are going to be well employed and, as a group, I think we need to figure out ways to advocate to train more people to address the shortage,” he said.

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