Student enrollment in medical programs is at an all-time high, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). That’s great news considering the United States is facing a very significant physician shortage and is in desperate need of new providers According to the AAMC, the total number of applicants to medical school grew by 6.1 % to 48,014. The number of first-time applicants increased by 5.8% to 35,727. And the number of students enrolled in their first year of medical school exceeded 20,000 for the first time (20,055), a 2.8% increase over 2012. All of these factors indicate that student interest in medicine is on the rise; however, it is only half of the equation. In 1997, Congress put a cap on the number of Medicare-funded residency slots, which has created a bottleneck for medical students. As a result, medical school graduates may exceed the number of available residency slots as soon as 2015. “Unless Congress lifts the 16-year-old cap on federal support for residency training, we will still face a shortfall of physicians across dozens of specialties,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D. “Students are doing their part by applying to medical school in record numbers. Medical schools are doing their part by expanding enrollment. Now Congress needs to do its part and act without delay to expand residency training to ensure that everyone who needs a doctor has access to one.” The increase in enrollment is due in large part to the creation of new medical schools as well as existing schools expanding their programs. In 2006, the AAMC said a 30% increase in enrollment would be needed to avert the physician shortage, and encouraged schools to expand. In 2013, 14 medical schools increased their class sizes by more than 10% and four new medical schools welcomed their first classes. Their contributing to about half of the overall enrollment increase. Since 2002, medical schools have increased the number of first-year students by 21.6%. Of course, it will be several years before this year’s enrollees are full-blown doctors. In the meantime, many hospitals and healthcare organizations use locum tenens physicians to supplement their existing staff or hold a position until they can find a permanent provider. Others, especially in rural areas, use a steady stream of locum tenens providers to ensure they can provide care to their patients. To learn more about locum tenens staffing, check out our locum tenens for hospitals, practices, and companies page.