More grads than residencies for second year

Despite the physician shortage, hundreds of medical school graduates can't get residencies, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In many cases, failure to obtain a residency--a vital part of becoming a medical doctor--is not due to a student's performance but rather with supply and demand in the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), which allocates residencies, according to the article.

In addition, even though the physician shortage persists, there are simply more graduates than residencies, the article states. This year, 26,678 positions were available, according to the NRMP's annual report. This is the second consecutive year there were more graduates than residencies.

"We've gotten to a choke point where there are more students graduating than are getting a residency," Janis Orlowski, senior director in healthcare affairs for the Association of Modern Medical Colleges, told the Post-Gazette.

Medicare funds residencies to the tune of $10 billion a year, a budget that has remained stagnant since 1997, despite two unsuccessful 2013 attempts to increase the allocation. In the 1980s, Orlowski said, a similar shortage spurred federal investment to expand medical education; now medical schools have responded to the shortage by increasing class sizes. Although that's a step in the right direction, Orlowski said, the number of doctors will not increase unless more residency slots open.

In a positive sign, the difference between graduates and residencies decreased to 412 this year, compared to 528 last year. This is due to increased willingness to accept less lucrative primary care positions, according to Orlowski. "Some primary care residencies did not fill in the past, and they did now, which is good," she said. "Rather than everyone wanting to be a dermatologist--a very lucrative but hard-to-fill spot--people selected wisely, especially in competitive areas."

But despite the improvement, the disparity will worsen if nothing is done, neurosurgeon James E. Willberger, vice president for graduate medical education at Allegheny Health System, told the Post-Gazette. "Right now the number is small, but the trend is disturbing," he said.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- read the report (.pdf)