How Old Is Too Old to Work as a Doctor?
Air traffic controllers face mandatory retirement at age 56, with exceptions up to 61. Commercial airline pilots must bow out at 65, same for foreign service employees. Physicians, however, have no age limit, regardless of specialty.

As the profession rapidly ages — some 30% of the physician workforce is currently a senior, according to the AMA — the topic of whether or not there should be a standard measure or age for retirement is front and center. The AMA's Council on Medical Education formed a workgroup to look into the issue in 2015 and 2018, and in 2021, delegates adopted a set of guidelines for screening and assessing physicians, but stopped short of a mandate.

One of the reasons guidelines — mandatory or otherwise — have been tough to come by is that aging brings with it a huge degree of variability. Indeed, some 80-year-olds can easily continue to teach college courses, keep up in 10k running races, or perform delicate surgeries. Yet others in their peer group might struggle to properly button a shirt, walk a flight of stairs, or remember yesterday's meals. Functional age is not the same as chronological age. Most often, these situations play out slowly, until the problem becomes glaringly obvious and potentially dangerous, and someone in a position of power must step in.

Physician Assessment and Clinical Education (PACE) program. One of the nation's oldest and largest such programs, the hospital founded PACE in 1996. Most physicians taking part arrive as a requirement of disciplinary action from the state medical board, but a small percentage self-refers.

PACE involves two phases. The first is a 2-day set of tests and measures core competency knowledge. Phase 2 is more comprehensive and lasts 5 days. Here, within their specialty, physicians participate in the activities of the corresponding residency program. Faculty evaluates the physician, and a multidisciplinary team meets to review all the findings of the combined phases.

Depending on the results, doctors may face remediation steps that range from programs to address performance deficiencies to residency-level clinical experiences. According to a paper on the program published by the institution, "most physicians referred to the PACE program are found to have mild-to-moderate performance dyscompetence."