More than 40,000 medical students applied for 29,000 medical residency positions this year with the hopes of becoming physicians. This means that on Match Day, the day where medical students learn what program they will spend the next years of their lives, there will be a number of candidates who will fail to match with a program. Alarmingly, last Match Day approximately 975 students received no match at all. If a student goes unmatched, they must wait to re-apply the following year.
While the cap on residency slots has remained stagnant since 1997, the demographics of the United States have changed significantly. Medical school enrollment is at an all-time high, with the number of first year students increasing by 21.6 percent since 2002. The 2014 Survey of America’s Physicians states that by the end of this decade, U.S. medical schools will be producing 27,000 graduates every year.
On the surface, such an increase would seem to go a long way towards alleviating the physician shortage, which the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects to reach 131,000 physicians by 2025. However, for the second year in a row, the number of medical school graduates has exceeded the number of residency slots available. With 76 million Baby Boomers reaching the age of 65 at a rate of 11,000 per day, over 30 million newly insured Americans under the Affordable Care Act, and an ever growing population, the supply of physicians simply cannot meet the demand of our current and future medical needs.
AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch, M.D., has said, “Increasing enrollments show that medical schools are doing their part to avert the shortage of more than 90,000 primary care specialty doctors this nation faces by 2020.” However, Kirch states that this “will not result in a single new practicing physician unless Congress acts … to lift the cap on residency training positions,” which seems unlikely in the near future.
As the composition of healthcare in the United States continues to evolve, new methods for addressing the healthcare provider shortage must be considered, including expanding the role of advance practice providers and the use of telemedicine. In the meantime, companies like Barton Associates are taking on the challenge to provide practical solutions for healthcare organizations that are struggling with the physician shortage.
For more information on Barton Associates and the benefits of locum tenens, please visit bartonassociates.com. Barton Associates wishes everyone a happy Match Day, and best of luck! Want to learn more about the physician shortage? Check out Barton Associates’ White Paper, “Get the Facts: The Physician Shortage.”