Blues plan to fill doc shortage with veteran medics

Faced with an ever-increasing doctor shortage, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is hoping to tap the military health industry to transform veteran medics into physician assistants.

The state's largest insurer is teaming up with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine to launch a new master's degree program, where returning veteran medics can become physician assistants, reported the Triangle Business Journal.

By 2020, North Carolina could be facing a shortage of about 150,000 physicians, including 65,000 primary care doctors. Fortunately, nine out of 10 medics surveyed by the Special Forces said they want to pursue a healthcare career outside the military.

"It's a simple equation: We need more physician assistants in North Carolina, and our veterans want the job," BCBSNC CEO Brad Wilson said Monday in a statement. "When these medics return home, they'll have the opportunity to take their experience in the field and use it to advance their careers and continue to care for patients."

That's why BCBSNC has pledged $1.2 million for the two-year program, which will include a curriculum based on the medical training the medics already have received, the Charlotte News & Observer reported.

The joint BCBSNC-UNC program should enroll its first class in 2015 with about 15 students, The Durham Herald-Sun reported.

To learn more:
- here's the BCBSNC statement
- read the Charlotte News & Observer article
- see the Durham Herald-Sun article
- check out the Triangle Business Journal article

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