The Disenfranchised Physician—Early Retirement?

By Bob Sweeney

We have been addressing the question: “What is to be done?” That is, what can physicians do to regain control of their evolving profession? One thing you can certainly do is leave—that is, retire from practice, either entirely or in part. The evidence seems to indicate that there is a surge in early retirement underway, even in those fields that might seem inoculated from immediate practice management stressors, such as radiology and anesthesiology. But according to the article attached here, even those clinical specialties are starting to see departure

Allow me to contrast what happens in the non-clinical world for executives who have spent their lives in organizing or running businesses. Certainly, there are many business leaders who retire for the same reasons that many doctors retire—they just want to smell the roses after so many decades of work. But a surprising number of executives leave their positions with a different mentality and a thirst for new

For example, I gave up the CEO chair in a clinical education company three years ago. I did so because I didn’t want to do THAT job any more. Then, I went out and joined two friends and business associates to start a clinical venture capital fund. So, I wasn’t fed up with business; I just wanted some different business opportunity to pursue.

My many physician friends and associates seem to have a different take on leaving medical practice, however. Despite decades of time in the trenches, their desire to get out is not driven by boredom or too much familiarity with what they do every day. In fact, for most the clinical practice of medicine remains intellectually stimulating. Nonetheless, these capable physicians are soured on their career in medicine.

There are many reasons ranging from suppressed income opportunity to the pace of technological change. However, the primary source of frustration is lack of control of their clinical practice. As the attached article observes very cogently, docs feel under assault by managers who are either ignorant of or indifferent about how their decisions affect the quality of patient care and the quality of physician life!

My colleagues and I are trying in our small way to change that situation. What if physicians just like you could, from the beginning, exercise judgment and control in organizations whose products and methods will influence, if not determine, future health care practices? It is my own belief that ANY company that wants to control health care practices should be guided by physicians. They don’t have to be the direct managers, since physicians in general are not trained in management. However, physicians should be on the governing or advisory boards, directly influencing issues of clinical importance. The world of digital health and telemedicine is growing in leaps and bounds. Now is the time to create value with “smart investment” that puts the true executor of medicine- the physician- back in a position of authority.

Please let me know what you think.


Robert E. “Bob” Sweeney, DA, MS

Principal & Managing Director