The industry faces a projected shortfall of 29,800 primary care providers by 2015. But the situation looks even bleaker as less than a quarter of third-year internal medicine residents want to practice primary care, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Mayo Clinic researchers looked at 17,000 internal medicine residents in the last year of their program and found that only 21.5 percent planned to stay in primary care after training completed.
"Our study suggests that current numbers of graduates planning general medicine careers won't come anywhere near meeting that shortage," Colin West, who conducted the study, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, another 64 percent chose specialty care, such as cardiology or oncology, Reuters reported.
Young docs also are flocking to palliative care. The fast-growing specialty is being led by physicians in their early- to mid-30s, according to data from the American Board of Medical Specialties. The younger generation of palliative care doctors is motivated by a new field that offers opportunity to innovate and work in a team structure, FierceHealthcare previously reported.
Some industry experts advise using nurse practitioners and physician assistants to fill the primary care physician void or increasing pay for general internists.
The latter could help close the workforce gap as physicians and educators often cite medical school debt as a deterrent for primary care career choices, according to The Boston Globe.