Medical Recruiting Insights

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Doctor Shortage in Nonprimary Care Specialties Looming Large

Adaptive Medical Partners | Healthcare Administrators, Physician Recruiting

What happens if you need emergency surgery and no surgeon is available? That’s not a scenario any of us wants to contemplate but it may be a reality many will face in the coming years. Not only is America facing a serious shortage of primary care physicians over the next decade, there’s also a growing concern over shortages in nonprimary care specialties.

Shortages Looming Large

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges‘ (AAMC) report, The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2016-2030, published in April 2018, the United States is looking at a projected physician shortage in the next decade in the range of 14,800 to 49,300.

That’s just primary care physicians.

The projected shortfalls in specialty care areas, such as all surgery specialties, neurology, urology, and psychiatry, are looming large. AAMC’s report estimates openings for specialty physicians in the 33,800 to 72,700 range by 2030.

That includes a lack of surgical specialty physicians in the neighborhood of 20,700 to 30,500.

Which begs the question: What happens if you need emergency surgery and no surgeon is available? Not a pleasant thought to consider.

The Growing Conundrum

This expanding physician shortage problem boils down to basic supply and demand. When the demand is greater than the supply, pots get sweetened and recruiting gets ramped up. But it really isn’t that simple.

Here’s the predicament: estimates of population patterns tell us that the number of Americans over the age of 65 will increase by 55 percent by 2030. A population in this age range typically has a higher need for health care services across the spectrum.

But there’s another component of the statistic that warrants attention: included in that aging population are the currently practicing physicians of the baby boomer generation. These doctors are aging with the rest of the population, meaning they are at or nearing retirement age and ready to leave the workforce. As time marches forward, that number is only going to increase.

According to the American Medical Association ( AMA), the total number of practicing physicians age 65 or older actively engaged in patient care in 2013 stood at 39.3 percent (241,641.) That is quadruple the number in 1975 (50,993.) Again, that number is going to increase as time moves forward.

A Feeding Frenzy Is Brewing

The implications are that physicians – newly minted as well as experienced ones – should consider themselves the focus of a feeding frenzy. There is massive competition for physicians during this shortage, just as there is in any profession when supply falls dramatically short of demand.

Physicians entering practice, especially those engaging in a specialty area, will need to make the decision as to where they want to practice (urban vs rural) and how they want that practice to look early, possibly before they complete their second year of training. The adage “the early bird gets the worm” is not lost on those responsible for filling vacant physician positions.

Some specialty areas are offering prime salary packages to doctors barely a year out of fellowship. Amenities offered can reach lavish heights: eight to 10 weeks’ vacation each year, no on-call duty, no weekend rotations. It is incumbent upon the physician to make certain he or she doesn’t become overwhelmed when the recruiting tsunami launched by the looming shortages hits home.

The secret is to make certain you’re working with the best physician recruiters when your attention turns to active employment.

Physician recruiters are moving into overdrive, seeking those nearing completion of their medical training and experienced doctors looking to make a move to a new job or location. Make certain you’ve got the right physician recruitment service on your side.