Can Forced Retirement Increase Safety?

Read Time: 4 minutesIn some industries, mandatory retirement helps increase safety and productivity. For example, in the US, pilots, federal law enforcement officers, and military personnel all have guidelines for forced retirement. In healthcare, however, unlike other public service professions, physicians do not have a standard age of forced retirement. Still, in many cases, cognitive decline is an important consideration.

Experience vs Forced Retirement | The Role of Elderly Physicians

The increasing number of elderly physicians

In the last 40 years, the number of physicians over the age of 65 has quadrupled. About 1 in 4 physicians are over the age of 65. These physicians bring significant experience and expertise to the field. However, studies suggest that testing physicians for health and competency may be a good practice.

Testing at all ages

Cognitive testing is appropriate at different ages for different people. Some research has suggested that, while testing is beneficial, there is no predetermined age at which all physicians need to be evaluated. Some healthcare institutions have considered implementing cognitive testing for all physicians, regardless of age, at least once per year. Physicians of all ages should continually strive to do no harm and to operate at peak performance. Testing all clinicians avoids ageism while ensuring that all healthcare providers are functioning well. Others argue, however, that a standard of cognitive evaluation should be established. For example, pilots are expected to engage in testing at the age of 40 and above. A similar protocol may be beneficial in the healthcare space.

Age of retirement for physicians

Physicians typically retire later than those in other professions. Overall, the average retirement age in the US is 63. For physicians, the average age is 66, with 25% of physicians opting to practice until the age of 70 or above. Though forced retirement is an important topic, people should also consider the importance of experience. Older physicians can often bring more wisdom and resilience to the practice. And some of the factors that affect poorer outcomes may not be related to cognitive decline at all, but rather to training and scope of practice.

Experience vs retirement

Some institutions may consider implementing voluntary cognitive testing for physicians. While elderly physicians bring a large amount of experience and expertise, cognitive decline is a relevant consideration. Just like other public service professions, those in the healthcare space have a responsibility to keep patients safe and to engage in a system of checks and balances.