Ten-day workweek for ophthalmologists

September 1, 2016

I feel inspired to offer my own vision for the working future: the ten-day workweek for ophthalmologists.

Carlos Slim is the richest man in Mexico. He became a billionaire in the telecommunications industry. He owns about one fifth of shares of stock in The New York Times. And he has an out-of-the-box idea about how much people should work.

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Instead of the traditional five days of work per week, interrupted by two days to spend with family and curse at little white balls that won’t go straight on the golf course, Mr. Slim proposes that we switch to working only three days per week.1 In addition, instead of retiring at age 65, we would work at least a decade longer. He believes this system offers many advantages, including:

  • Decreasing unemployment, especially among young people, by creating new job openings.

  • Better expertise from the older workers who would not retire at a time when they have a lot of experience and wisdom to benefit their companies.

  • We workers would no longer become physically worn out and would stay active in the work force throughout most of our ever-increasing life spans.

  • Helping sectors of the economy with “excess personnel . . . such as government agencies.”

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Apparently, this has been done in a few instances, with reportedly good results. In Mr. Slims’ company, he began offering this option to employees in 2014 and 40% of his staff have chosen the three-day option. In Gothenberg, Sweden, a Toyota manufacturing facility made the switch 13 years ago, and we are told the results include “happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits.” Sounds pretty good, no?

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I, on the other hand, am not the richest man in my country, my state, my city, or my block. I am not even sure I am the richest man in my household, now that my son has become a man of business. Nonetheless, I feel inspired to offer my own vision for the working future:  the ten-day workweek for ophthalmologists. 

Dramatic shifts

 

By way of background, developed nations in the world are experiencing a dramatic demographic shift. In the next couple of decades, the number of patients in Singapore with cataracts and other significant vision problems is estimated to double or triple (depending upon the assumptions made).2 Under the best case scenario, the number of ophthalmologists in that country would need to more than double to meet the needs of all these people. Similar projections have been made in the United States and other countries.

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Based upon recent discussions of funding for residency training positions in the United States, the likelihood of a substantial increase in the number of ophthalmologists in coming years is slim (no pun intended) - to - none.

Possibly the thinking of our elected statesmen and stateswomen in Washington will evolve and more training positions will be created. Alternatively, improvements in diagnostic equipment and therapies will dramatically increase our efficiency. An anti-VEGF agent that is injected once a year instead of monthly comes to mind.

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But if these things do not come to pass, the only logical approach is the one I suggest, in which ophthalmologists switch from working five days per week to ten days. And forget about retirement at 65, 75, or 85. How about never? Does never work for you? 

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My simple yet elegant solution solves the important healthcare need occasioned by our aging populace. And, to be honest, who needs to spend his or her golden years walking around golf courses while screaming the f-word and slamming a five iron into the ground?

References

1. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/carlos-slim-mexico-three-day-work-week-six-hour-day-telmex-america-movil-productivity-a7173501.html

2. Hum Resour Health. 2015; 13: 86