Younger Gen X and Gen Y pathologists have different workplace expectations

Aging Baby Boomers are about to retire and double the nation’s population of senior citizens. Meanwhile, a decline in the pool of practicing physicians-the majority of which are part of the Boomer generation-has put the United States on a collision course for the gravest shortage of physicians in our nation’s history.

For medical laboratories, these demographic trends will change the way labs hire, compensate, and retain pathologists. Cejka Search , a St. Louis firm specializing in physician recruitment, recently issued a report on physician recruitment. Among other things, Cejka Search states that the physician shortage has already created tremendous competition among practices for young doctors. In turn, these young doctors demand more in compensation and perks because they can.

Over the past 25 years, the nation’s population increased 31%, while the number of newly trained physicians remained unchanged at 15,000 to 16,000 year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Adding to the problem is the increased number of doctors reaching retirement age.

In fact, 18% of practicing physicians are at least 61 years old, and 49% are between the ages of 42 and 60, according to the American Medical Association (AMA). Roughly, 33% of young doctors are between the ages of 27 and 31, which includes both the youngest Generation X’ers, those born in the mid- to late 70s, and Generation Y (also called Millennials), who were born after 1980 and are just now graduating medical school. Of the combined older age group described above, 88% are males. By contrast, 54% of doctors in the two younger generations are female.

Authors of the report, Carol Westfall, Cejka President, and John Powers, a St. Louis attorney have recruiting advice for physician groups. To be more successful in attracting the best and brightest, medical practices need to understand the ways in which the younger generations of doctors are different, both financially and culturally.

Financially, younger physicians are entering practice with a greater debt load than any previous generation of doctors. At the same, these younger doctors must deal with escalating malpractice premiums and uncertain reimbursement rates. As a result, terms of the compensation packages matter to these younger physicians.

Culturally, younger physicians are from a different planet than their Boomer-age peers. As Baby Boomer physicians entered practice, they viewed the extraordinary number of hours worked per week as an investment in their careers. Today’s young physician are committed to their profession, but carefully guard their time and put family first, wrote Westfall and Powers in their report. Also, before joining a practice, today’s young physicians will evaluate call coverage, clinical hours, the number of office and hospital sites, and anticipated patient volumes.

In an environment of high starting salaries, bonuses and guarantees, young doctors often may regard partnership-traditionally a recruitment incentive-as a headache and an unnecessary risk, noted Westfall and Powers. Many young doctors prefer the security of employment versus a partnership track, which may cause them to increase debt to buy equity in a practice. The partner track also limits their career options to one organization. Those young physicians who are interested in an equity stake may expect an accelerated partnership path, a reasonable buy-in, and an early share of revenue sources.

Those clinical laboratories and pathology groups that recognize how Generation X and Generation Y pathologists differ in their approach to working hours and compensation will do better in attracting the most talented young pathologists. As well, these younger pathologists, because of their use of digital pathology images in medical school, will be very comfortable in a digital work environment. They will also have a keen interest in their laboratory acquiring and using advanced molecular technologies. – P. Kirk

Related Information:

Beyond the Labels: Lessons for Physician Recruitment in Changing Times