More Primary Care Residencies Does Not Solve Shortfall of Doctors

For the fourth successive year many more graduating doctors than the preceding year, committed to further primary care experience as opposed to medical specialties. This information comes out of a study of the “match program”. This is like the NFL draft, but for new medics rather than football players. It’s where they find out where they go next for their residencies and qualifying experiences up to 2016. It is good news for overall American health services but will not go very far in curing the skill shortage among health professionals that is looming.


Around 25%, or almost 12 thousand medical students, applied and were matched to resident openings. These positions equip doctors for work on the first lines of healthcare, in the fields of, pediatrics, family and internal medicine. These areas are currently hugely understaffed but important. For these are the doctors that diagnose new presenting conditions, manage the treatment of chronic illnesses, identify mental conditions and of course do preventive health education.

Because so many more Americans can now afford health care under the governments’ ‘Obamacare’ legislation there is a big shortfall in the number of doctors generally. But it is in the primary care line that an estimated 9 thousand more doctors are needed today and a massive 65 thousand will be required by 2025.

This year’s boost to primary care medics is to be welcomed even if it is only 1,502 more positions than last year. It does however show a shift as “health care overhaul is putting more emphasis on the need for these kinds of doctors. We welcome this news and expect the trend to continue”. The president of the American Academy of Family Physicians said.

Typically American medics take up just half of all primary care residencies, because they are not so well paying and are more demanding in terms of working hours. Around one third of all doctors are in these vital jobs. The AAFP goes on to say, “we hope to see that grow to 40% to 50%.” Apart from the ‘Obamacare factor, more doctors are needed to deal with the country’s expanding number of older folks. These have, “more chronic conditions requiring more time for doctors to treat”. Nearly 49 million currently uninsured people who will be pouring into clinics as insured patients as of next year.

The president of the Association of American Medical Colleges fears a looming crisis. “Congress has refused the funding of new residencies. We have called for an increase of 30% more doctors being trained in our schools, but they can’t all find residencies.”

The National Resident Matching Program, the body that brings together students and programs of residency saw just 1 less than 2400 additional positions open up across all fields of medicine. These new posts were part of other pre-existing training programs. The number of primary care jobs in those new jobs was 1,438. This number comprised 141 in pediatrics, 1,000 in internal medicine and 297 in family medicine.

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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