Forget Marcus Welby: Today's docs want to have a real life

By Lindsey Tanner

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 15 2012 6:00 a.m. MDT

Newer doctors often have working partners and both share responsibility for raising children or caring for elderly parents, he noted.

Consider some statistics:

When Kirch graduated in 1977, only about 20 percent of medical school graduates were women; now nearly half are.

1 in 5 male doctors and 44 percent of female doctors employed by medical groups worked part-time last year, according to an American Medical Group Association survey. That compares with just 7 percent and 29 percent respectively in 2005.

New doctors in their first year of medical residency training can no longer work 24-hour shifts. Since last year, they've been limited to 16-hour shifts. Stricter limits began in 2003, cutting residents' maximum weekly hours to 80, to improve grueling schedules and reduce medical mistakes.

A 2011 survey of final-year medical residents conducted by national physician recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins found that only 1 percent wanted to work as solo practitioners, running their own small medical offices.

Rising numbers of medical school graduates are seeking training programs in high-paying specialties offering flexible hours; emergency medicine and anesthesiology saw some of the biggest increases in this year's medical resident match program.

Those two specialties are popular among young doctors, who on average face more than $150,000 in medical school debt. The others are radiology, ophthalmology and dermatology, all offering better pay and work hours than primary-care medicine.

Also rising in popularity are hospitalists, a specialty that didn't even exist a generation ago. For decades, internists and other primary-care doctors have typically provided part-time care for their patients when they were hospitalized. Increasingly, hospitalists have taken over those duties full time. They often work several 12-hour shifts in a row, with an equal number of days off — the so-called seven on-seven off model.

Dr. John Schumann runs the internal medicine residency program at OU-Tulsa; among the 14 young doctors who finished the program last year, nine became hospitalists, Schumann said.

Nasiri, the tech-loving resident, is also considering hospitalist work.

He's getting married in November and says the long stretches of time off would be more family-friendly and allow him to pursue hobbies, including snowboarding.

He views technology as improving efficiency so that "spending less time doesn't necessarily mean less dedication or worse patient care. More experience with years doesn't necessarily mean better doctors if the older generation isn't keeping up with newer treatment modalities and approaches to patient care."

Kirch, of the medical college association, agrees. When he visits campuses and asks students how they differ from his generation, "they almost always point to the readiness with which they embrace technology."

He's noticed another trend on those visits. Schools used to show off vast medical libraries, "taking pride in how many volumes were sitting on the shelves," Kirch said.

Now, less is more. At one of the newest medical schools, the University of Central Florida in Orlando, "they point with pride to one small room near the entrance, and in that room they hold the books and journals that cannot be accessed online." Their goal, Kirch said, is for that room to be empty.

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