Looming physician, APN, PA shortages call for more training

Even under scenarios of aggressive training programs, the healthcare industry will experience a serious shortage of physicians, advanced practice nurses, and physician assistants during the next two decades, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

The physician shortage isn't new news. More than two-thirds of advanced clinicians are physicians, and the U.S. is training fewer physicians per capita each year. The national physician shortage increases 7 to 8 percent each annually, according to senior study author Richard Cooper, MD, professor at the Perleman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in a press release.

The study points out, however, that even if the APN and PA workforce grows at its current projections but physician residency programs are not expanded, the supply of advanced clinicians will not meet demand in 2025, especially in light of greater healthcare access due to healthcare reform, according to the study.

"Long before the healthcare reform bill was written, our nation was headed for serious physician shortages. As these shortages deepen, physicians will focus on areas of care that demand their high levels of skill and education most," said study lead author Michael Sargen, MD candidate at the Perleman School of Medicine, in the press release. "It will not be possible for physician assistants and advance practice nurses to fill the void, even with the increases in supply that we have projected. Therefore, it will be necessary not only to expand the training capacity of all three disciplines, but also to widen the spectrum of healthcare workers and integrate them into the processes of providing care."

Researchers looked at data from professional provider organizations, including American Medical Association, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the Physician Assistant Education Association, as well as projections from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the President's Council of Economic Advisors and the Congressional Budget Office.

Researchers indicated that because it takes some lead time to train more physicians, even with 1,000 more entry-level positions added annually, shortages would be at 14 to 15 percent in 2025, double the current rate.

"Efforts must be made to expand the output of clinicians in all 3 disciplines, while also strengthening the infrastructure of clinical practice and facilitating the delegation of tasks to a broadened spectrum of caregivers in new models of care," states the study.

For more:
- read the study abstract
- check out the press release

Related Articles:
One-fourth of nurses seek jobs after dissatisfaction
Relief from physician shortage coming soon?
Healthcare workers delay retirement
Staffing shortages blamed for sexual abuse at psych hospitals