Today’s ophthalmologists train differently, perform surgeries differently and enter the field differently than the generation of practitioners that preceded them. Further, the field is more competitive and solutions are more varied than at any other time in history. Innovations such as Toric lenses, diffractive multifocal lenses and anti-vascular endothelial growth factor injections were mere research projects rather than the widely accepted treatments they’ve become today. All of these factors point up one of the key challenges ophthalmologists face in their careers—keeping up with technological advancements.
Reliance Upon Technology
Quoted in an article in Healio.com’s Ocular Surgery News, Ehsan Rahimy, MD, of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, California, said he has seen instances of younger ophthalmologists depending too much on the new era of imaging modalities instead of trusting their own eyes.
“Younger ophthalmologists have become so dependent on widefield photography, OCT imaging and OCT angiography that the basic fundamental examination techniques taught in training are being de-emphasized,” Rahimy said.
Barriers to Entry Are High
While these technological advancements have made the work somewhat easier, it also makes setting a practice up more costly. An investment of upwards of $100,000 can be required to get a facility up and running from scratch. When you factor in the student loan debt contemporary medical school graduates tend to carry, this can be a severely limiting factor. It also makes carrying business insurance for ophthalmologists even more important. If the equipment is damaged in a disaster or stolen, the cost of replacing it could be the setback that shuts down the practice.
More Competition For Jobs
As a result of all of the above, this current crop of ophthalmologists is more likely to go to work at an established facility than they are to set up shop. This frees them of many of the costs associated with establishing themselves, such as leasing an office or buying equipment. But it has also made getting hired a very competitive experience.
There is an ever-growing need for ophthalmologists as more and more baby boomers pass into senior citizen status. However, medical schools are accepting fewer ophthalmology applicants and residency opportunities aren’t widespread. What’s more, at the other end of the pipeline, baby boomer generation ophthalmologists are retiring. This places more of a burden on existing practitioners, which can create work/life imbalances. However, millennial ophthalmologists tend to look at work as part of life instead of all of life the way previous generations did.
The challenges ophthalmologists face in their careers have changed considerably over the years. On the one hand, technology has made the work easier. But to afford the tech, they now have to collaborate because starting an office on your own is a much more costly proposition today. Meanwhile, even as there is more work to be done than ever before, the upcoming generation wants to have a life too. These factors have changed the nature of the profession and speak to an uncertain future.