Sunday, April 18, 2010, AM | Leave Comment
There is a huge deficit in newly graduating medical students in the United States. Even more, the number of first year students in medical schools in the current year is a lot less than a decade ago, according to some reports in the media.
Thus the shortage is an ongoing phenomenon that will not go away soon. So far, the biggest hurdle has been the cost – the cost of becoming a doctor.
There are just not enough doctors to go around. Folks sometimes have craving for hamburgers – with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese – and hot dogs. Hospitals have a big craving for doctors with nothing on them except their medical know-how and their doctor’s apron – an absolute necessity for all those young aspiring doctors and nurses.
Hospitals and clinics – big and small – need fresh blood of doctors and nurses [no pun intended.] The more senior doctors, on the path of success primarily in business, very seldom will be back to their medical profession. [Is there a doctor in the house? Oops! I mean in business?]
Where will the greatest demand be?
The greatest demand, the media reports, will be for primary-care physicians. These general practitioners, internists, family physicians and pediatricians will have a larger role under the new federal health-care law, coordinating care for each patient. Regardless what the new law has, for some it will always be deficient of one thing or another. [It’s OK to take commercialism out of our health-care system.]
Some statistics about medical professionals
- The number of U.S. doctors now totals about 954,000.
- The U.S. has 352,908 primary-care doctors now.
- 45,000 more primary-care physicians will be needed by 2020.
- The number of medical-school students entering family medicine fell more than a quarter between 2002 and 2007.
- There are about 110,000 resident positions in the U.S., according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
- Medicare pays $9.1 billion a year to teaching hospitals. That money goes toward resident salaries and direct teaching costs.
How about importing more doctors?
That will definitely help. However, those doctors have the same problem. They must still complete a U.S. residency in order to be able to practice medicine independently. In the 2010 class of residents, some 13% of slots are filled by non-U.S. citizens who completed medical school outside the U.S.
In a Nutshell
I don’t know if the new health-care law has any provision for boosting the number of doctors in the U.S. However, hospitals and major medical schools have reported concern of the shortage now and in the near future unless some drastic but positive measures are taken by public and private entities.
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