Over the years, the number of physicians has steadily declined while patient populations have continued to rise. According to information published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the United States is expected to see a shortage of 122,000 physicians by 2032. This is alarming because a physician shortage can lead to poor patient care, or lack of care, especially for those living in rural areas of the country. Check out the factors that are contributing to the shortage:
Change in populations
One of the biggest factors contributing to the physician shortage is the change in populations. There are more senior citizens alive today than there were 20 years ago due to better healthcare and education around living healthy lifestyles. However, this means that there are more patients to care for, too. Similarly, the rate at which senior physicians are retiring has increased with approximately one-third of physicians reaching the 65 or older benchmark within the next ten years resulting in a greater need for more physicians to replace those retiring and provide care for the elderly.
New doctors are opting out of rural areas
While older physicians are retiring, millennial doctors are just beginning their career. One of the challenges presented by these younger physicians is their lack of desire to work in rural areas. Instead, these physicians are wanting to work in the city or surrounding suburbs in order to maintain a work-life balance in close proximity to shopping centers, restaurants, coffee shops and more. Even with the benefits of working in rural areas, these physicians are opting for comfort over compensation.
Medical school and residency programs
Even with the physician shortage on the horizon, medical schools and residency programs maintain low enrollment rates. In fact, Harvard only accepts about 3.8 percent of medical school applicants. Residency programs are also reluctant to increase enrollment due to financial costs associated with these programs. In fact, it costs billions of dollars to run residency programs for aspiring physicians. However, efforts by the American Medical Association to remove caps on Medicare-funded residency programs have been underway since June 2019 with hopes of increasing acceptance rates in these programs.
How locum tenens providers can help the physician shortage:
Locum tenens healthcare providers are needed more than ever. These physicians can help combat the physician shortage by taking locums assignments instead of fully retiring in order to continue providing patient care. Locum tenens physicians can also help by working in rural areas. These areas present the biggest risk for physician shortages, but provide great pay for those working as locum tenens. Locum tenens providers ensure that patients across the country have access to the healthcare they deserve.
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