Aging Physicians – A Valuable Asset

manAging physicians on your medical staff are a cause for concern.  Not just concerns regarding their ability to continue to safely care for patients, but concerns for them as valued friends and colleagues, for their dignity and self-esteem.

Medical staff leaders struggle with what, if anything, to do when faced with this dilemma.  Should the clinical privileges of older staff members be limited?  Should they be forced to retire?  Many leaders choose to look the other way, especially when the practitioner is well-loved in the community and no patients have come forward to complain.  That philosophy, however, comes at a price; a high one if a patient ends up being harmed and an older, well-respected, physician’s mistake is the cause. 

Although there are no “one-size-fits-all” answers, Dr. Kenneth Cohn brings the discussion to the fore with a post on Hospital Impact. 

“The CEO and I brainstormed together when I asked him, “How does this physician want to be remembered?” Legacy becomes increasingly important when the marginal value of seeing one more patient diminishes.”

“Then his eyes brightened when I asked, “Does he have a special healthcare cause that he wants to support? Maybe, he could solicit contributions from grateful patients and their families.”

Seeing “one more patient” may not be in the best interest of anyone in this scenario, but older physicians have much to offer.  Their wealth of experience and tenure are valuable assets to the hospital and community.  They are often in an excellent position to act as advisers, or even take the lead, on medical staff projects and committees, especially those dealing with today’s complex issues.

The skill sets of older physicians may be changing, but they remain valuable.  It may simply be a matter of finding the right match of skill and need.