By Anna Gorman
After taking a 10-year break from practicing medicine to raise four sons, Kate Gibson was ready to go back to work.
The family practitioner had been reading about a shortage of primary care doctors and knew she could help. But when Gibson, 51, applied to work at her former hospital near Los Angeles, she was turned away. She’d been out of clinical practice too long.
“I really thought it was not going to be that hard,” she said.
Like many professionals, physicians take time off to raise children, care for sick family members or to recover from their own illnesses. Some want to return from retirement or switch from non-clinical jobs back to seeing patients. But picking up where they left off is more difficult in medicine than in most careers.
In medicine, change occurs quickly. Drugs, devices and surgical techniques that were standard a decade ago may now be obsolete. Or a returning doctor’s skills may simply be rusty.
“My hands feel like those of an intern,” said Molly Carey, 36, an Ivy-League educated doctor who recently enrolled in a Texas retraining program after four years away from patients.
After extended leaves, doctors must convince medical boards to reissue their licenses, hospitals to grant admitting privileges and malpractice insurers to provide coverage. Only a handful of programs around the country are set up to help physicians brush up on their skills, and they can cost doctors thousands of dollars.
“Medical schools do a fantastic job graduating brand new medical students,” said Humayun J. Chaudhry, president of the Federation of State Medical Boards. “But what about people who have already graduated and need to get some retraining? There is a clearly a dearth of those kind of training programs.”
Policymakers and professional organizations are pushing to make the process less burdensome and costly – in part because it may help ease shortages of primary care doctors. Continue reading