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The Future of the Ob-Gyn Workforce

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)December 29, 2014Articles

Workforce issues in women’s healthcare continue to be a primary concern for ACOG.

A recent survey of 20,088 physicians conducted by the Physicians Foundation, a non-profit research organization, found that increasing workloads, regulatory requirements, and other changes in the healthcare system are prompting physicians to make career changes. It found that 81% of physicians described themselves as either overextended or at full capacity. Although these findings are not specific to our specialty of obstetrics and gynecology, it can be assumed that many ACOG Fellows have similar opinions.

One-third of currently practicing obstetricians and gynecologists are over 55 years of age. According to the Physicians Foundation survey, 39% of physicians are planning to accelerate their retirement plans. If that is not frightening enough, within the next three years, approximately 18% of physicians plan to reduce their work hours, 10% plan to seek a non-clinical job, and 9% will retire. We cannot afford to precipitously lose the work efforts of comparable percentages of highly productive, busy obstetricians and gynecologists and expect to be able to continue to meet the healthcare needs of women. The numbers of ob-gyn residents coming out of our training programs have not substantially increased in the past twenty years. Consequently, we do not have the immediate ability to replenish this potential loss of productivity. This prompts the question “What is ACOG doing about this looming crisis?”

In May 2014, as part of my presidential initiatives, I appointed an Executive Board Working Group on Practice Transformations to provide decision-making help for ACOG Fellows who are considering change in their practice. This group is working hard to make certain that ACOG serves as a primary resource for information on ob-gyn practice alternatives. In addition, our Collaborative Practice Task Force and the Working Group on Team Leadership are exploring methods for obstetricians and gynecologists to expand access for women’s healthcare through efficient, multidisciplinary teams.

ACOG’s Council of Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG) is working to revise our educational curriculum to reflect anticipated changes in practice modalities. In cooperation with the Society for Maternal/Fetal Medicine, ACOG is defining levels of maternity care with the intent of improving and promoting regionalized, integrated systems of maternity care.

It is my hope that these and other ACOG efforts will have a significant and certain impact on continuing access to high-quality, high-value care for the women of our country.

About John C. Jennings, MD
John C. Jennings, MD is the president of ACOG through April 2015. He is professor of ob-gyn at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at the Permian Basin. Dr. Jennings was in private practice in San Angelo, TX, for 12 years before entering academic medicine. He has served as head of gynecology and program director of ob-gyn at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC; professor and program director of ob-gyn at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston; chair and program director of ob-gyn at TTUHSC at Amarillo; and regional dean of the school of medicine at TTUHSC at the Permian Basin.

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