Significance: Planning for the effective delivery of eye care, on all levels, depends on an accurate and detailed knowledge of the optometric workforce and an understanding of demographic/behavioral trends to meet future needs of the public.
Purpose: The purposes of this study were to assess the current and future supply of doctors of optometry and to examine in-depth trends related to (1) demographic shifts, (2) sex-based differences, (3) differences in practice behaviors in between self-employed and employed optometrists, and (4) the concept of additional capacity within the profession.
Methods: The 2017 National Optometry Workforce Survey (31 items) was distributed to 4050 optometrists, randomly sampled from a population of 45,033 currently licensed and practicing optometrists listed in the American Optometric Association's Optometry Master Data File. A stratified sampling method was applied to the population of optometrists using primary license state, age, and sex as variables to ensure a representative sample.
Results: With a response rate of 29% (1158 responses), the sample ensured a 95% confidence interval with a margin of error of <5%. Key results include finding no significant differences between men and women for hours worked (38.9 vs. 37.5), productivity (patient visits per hour, 2.0 vs. 1.9), or career options/professional growth satisfaction with 65% for both. The data indicate a likely range of additional patient capacity of 2.29 to 2.57 patients per week (5.05 to 5.65 million annually profession-wide).
Conclusions: The optometric workforce for the next decade is projected to grow 0.6 to 0.7% more annually than the U.S. population. The study found additional capacity for the profession more limited than previously suggested. Findings also illustrate an evolving/equitable workforce based on sex, in terms of both productivity and satisfaction. The trend toward employed versus self-employed was marked with 44% reporting they are employed, up from 29% in 2012.
Copyright © 2021 American Academy of Optometry.