Thousands of newly graduated doctors don't find a residency program match

Despite a growing shortage of physicians, a total of 8,640 newly graduated doctors didn't find a residency program match this spring and won't be allowed to practice medicine, according to a group called No Residency Match M.D.

The group said that thousands of doctors are effectively "thrown away" each year because there are not enough residency program slots for all of those who graduate from medical school. Each year, the number of medical school graduates exceeds the number of residency positions currently available.

Without at least a year of postgraduate training, a medical school graduate is unable to get a medical license and cannot practice medicine in the U.S., the group said, citing approximately 25 percent too few residency positions to train all of those graduates. One Florida hospital had 1,400 applicants for 12 slots in a new residency program.

The situation persists despite the Association of American Medical Colleges projection that the country may see a shortage of as many as 90,000 physicians in the next 10 years, the group said. An estimated 8,000 qualified and trained doctors each year would go a long way to alleviate that shortage, the group said.

"Many healthcare professionals are not aware of the unintended consequences this residency shortage has caused," the group said in a recent announcement. Currently, some areas of the country have experienced a shortage of primary care doctors and patients must wait a long time for dermatology appointments.

The solution involves Medicare funding at the federal level, accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education for residency programs which takes up to three years, and licensure statutes at each state level. Only three states--Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas--have laws that allow unmatched graduates to work in medically underserved areas without doing a residency.

While American medical schools have responded to the physician shortage by enrolling and graduating more medical students, turning those graduates into licensed physicians remains a problem. Since 2002, the U.S. has seen the addition of 20 medical schools, with seven new schools currently awaiting accreditation.

To learn more:
- visit the group's web site