Possible Reasons for the Projected Physician Shortage
I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.
~ Maya Angelou
The practice of medicine dates back to the Stone Age in the most primitive form that some would find shocking today. Thankfully, medicine only continues to transform and evolve with technological advances and knowledge of the human body. One thing that has remained consistent throughout time is that practicing medicine is more than the scope of knowledge you acquire along the way; it’s about addressing feelings and healing an individual.
If you ask a physician why they got into medicine, most likely the answer will be something along the lines of making a difference in the lives of others. Yet, recent studies by the Association of American Medical Colleges confirm the United States will see a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032. This is concerning as our aging population grows, and the objective of combating health issues, such as obesity and tobacco use, remain. At a time when the healthcare industry is already experiencing crushing pressure within its workforce, such as feelings of being burned out and even depression, the projected shortage is alarming.
One of the most telling signs of the shortage is the growth of the aging population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, our country’s population is estimated to grow by more than 10% by 2032. With those that are ages 65 and older, the increase is 48%. How does this relate to the shortage? One-third of all currently active practicing physicians will be 65 and older within the next decade. It’s when this group decides to retire that the greatest impact on the projected shortage will be evident.
INCREASING MEDICAL SCHOOL EXPENSES
It’s no surprise that medical school is expensive. On average, tuition, fees, and health insurance during the 2018-2019 academic year ranges from $36,755 (public, in-state) to $60,802 (public out-of-state). The average private school cost is $59,076 and $60,474, respectively. While medical school tuition varies greatly from program to program, one thing is true: most students who go through the program come out with a significant amount of debt. Not too long ago, the brightest and most ambitious students wouldn’t even consider the cost of medical school to be a deterring factor. Now, while scholarships and grants lessen the burden, it’s still an average of $170,000 of debt when it’s all said and done. Furthermore, loan interest accrues while doctors are still finishing their residency programs. The debt incurred begins before you are even accepted into school, as experts say applicants should expect to budget $5,000 to $10,000 for the application process.
Because of the significant burden of debt that physicians take on, some schools are attempting to encourage more students to apply by lowering expenses. This includes offering students free tuition or taking care of other related expenses, such as housing. In fact, last year, New York University announced it will cover the full tuition cost for all medical students, regardless of need, which amounts to $56,272 for the 2019-20 school year.
LIFTING THE CAP ON MEDICARE GME FUNDING WILL HELP ALLEVIATE THE DOCTOR SHORTAGE
Currently, two bills in Congress would help address the physician shortage by increasing residency slots by 15,000 over five years. This increase would account for one-quarter of the physicians necessary to meet the country’s workforce needs. (Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019: H.R. 1763, S. 348).
While there is a projected shortage, one thing remains true: being a physician is one of the most rewarding professions you can choose, and Foster Crown is here to help! Foster Crown is a boutique physician recruitment firm that has been leading the charge on recruitment for ASC/OBL development and hospital-based practices in recent years. To learn more about how we work with candidates and place top tier physicians, call us at 262.646.2860. Please be sure to like us on Facebook.