Residency position shortage fears are unfounded

A new study claims that recent fears of a shortage of residency positions for U.S. medical school graduates are unfounded. 

A team of researchers from George Washington University's Health Workforce Institute found that even as the number of U.S. medical school graduates grows, the number of Graduate Medical Education (GME) opportunities like residencies and fellowships will grow with them. The team published their findings on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Residency slots will continue to exceed the number of U.S. medical graduates seeking them for at least the next decade," the George Washington researchers wrote in an announcement. In 2024, they project there will be 4,608 more residency openings than U.S. medical graduates to fill them.

In 2013, Congress reduced funding for GME positions, leading to fears that medical schools would produce more graduates with no place to actually train. 

However, Congress does not need to expand funding for GME positions, based on the new research, study author Fitzhugh Mullan, M.D., co-director of the GW Health Workforce Institute, and his colleagues Edward Salsberg and Katie Weider said.

Recent medical school graduates may not do their residencies in the U.S., the authors noted, but in developing nations, where the need for physicians is more urgent. In general, the study noted, physicians historically have moved from poor countries to rich ones, which contributes to the depletion and destablization of the health system in many low-resource countries. The rise in U.S. medical school graduates and positions will purportedly allow international students to study, train and practice in their own homelands.

"Any current or foreseeable failure of U.S. graduates to obtain residency positions is not attributable to a lack of positions," the researchers concluded, but "the primary goal of GME support, it should be noted, is to produce trained physicians to meet the country's healthcare needs and not to fulfill the personal preferences of individual graduates for the specialties of their choice."

To learn more:
- read the report 
- here's the announcement