The demand for physicians is so frantic that 64% of the 391 residents who answered the survey said recruiters were harassing them.
By John Commins, May 14, 2019
Nearly half (45%) of physicians in their final year of residency received more than 100 recruiting offers, and two-thirds of them (66%) received more than 50 offers, a new survey shows.
"Physicians coming out of training are being recruited like blue chip athletes," Travis Singleton, executive vice president of Irving, Texas-based physicians recruiters Merritt Hawkins, said in a media release. "There are simply not enough new doctors to go around."
The search for physicians has gotten so frantic that 64% of the 391 residents who answered the survey complained that recruiters were virtually harassing them. Seven percent of residents said they were not contacted enough.
The search is rigorous for both primary care and specialty physicians.
Nearly 70% of both primary care and internal medicine subspecialist residents said they received more than 50 recruiting solicitations, as did 64% of surgical specialists.
Singleton says the physician shortage goes beyond the demand for primary care doctors and extends to virtually all subspecialties, too.
"We need more primary care physicians to implement emerging healthcare delivery models that are based on enhanced access, prevention and quality," Singleton said. "But we also need more specialists to care for America’s rapidly aging population."
The Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032, including up to 55,000 primary care physicians and nearly 66,000 too few specialists.
Singleton blamed the physician shortage partly on Congress's 1997 cap on spending for physician training.
RURAL AREAS SEE LITTLE INTEREST
The survey results are bad news for rural hospitals and providers, which have always been hobbled in their efforts to recruit physicians.
For towns of 10,000 people or fewer, only 1% of medical residents expressed an interest in establishing a practice there, while 2% of residents expressed a desire to practice in towns with 25,000 people or fewer.
The majority of new physicians—65%—said they prefer to practice in cities with 250,000 or more people. International medical graduates appeared to be more amenable to practicing in rural areas than U.S. medical school graduates.
The employed-physician model is also gaining ground. More than 90% of new physicians said they would rather be employed than on their own in an independent practice. Of those seeking employment, 43% said they'd prefer to work with a hospital. Two percent said they want to work as a solo practitioner.
"The days of new doctors hanging out a shingle in an independent solo practice are over," Singleton said. "Most new doctors prefer to be employed rather than deal with the financial uncertainty and time demands of private practice."
DEBT BURDENS MOUNT
Fortunately for these new physicians, there are plenty of job offers, because they're knee-deep it debt.
More than half (51%) of final-year medical residents said they owe $150,000 or more in student loans, and 48% say they owe more than $200,000. Only 25% of international medical graduates owe that much.
Only 22% of U.S. medical school graduates said they'd accumulated no debts for their education, while 58% of international medical school graduates said they have no student debt.
Even with a plethora of job options, 19% of new doctors say they're unhappy about their choice of profession and would not choose medicine as a career if they could do it all over again.
More than one-in-five (21%) U.S. medical graduates regretted their career choice, compared with 13% of IMGs.
"With high levels of physician burnout and continued uncertainty about the direction of the healthcare system, many doctors are under duress today," Singleton said. "It is not surprising that some newly trained doctors regret their choice of a career."
Editor's note: This story has been updated.
“Physicians coming out of training are being recruited like blue chip athletes.”
Travis Singleton, executive vice president, Merritt Hawkins
John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.
Photo credit: Tupungato / Shutterstock
Nearly half (45%) of physicians in their final year of residency received more than 100 recruiting offers, and two-thirds of them (66%) received more than 50 offers.
More than half (51%) of final-year medical residents said they owe $150,000 or more in student loans.
A strong majority of newly trained physicians (91%) would prefer to be employed and few seek an independent, private practice setting.