Studying the doctor and nursing shortage

An increase in the number of the nation’s elderly and the aging population of doctors is causing a doctor shortage in the United States, with estimates that the demand for doctors will outstrip supply by 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The Association of Colleges of Nursing notes a similar dilemma for the nation’s registered nurses. Read Knowledge@Emory for the full article. 

Fred Sanfilippo, MD, PhD

Fred Sanfilippo, MD, PhD, executive vice president for health affairs at Emory, CEO of Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center and chairman of Emory Healthcare, says, “There is an ever-changing cycle of shortages. Advances in technology and treatment can reduce or increase demand for specialists needed in one area or another much more quickly than it takes to train or absorb them.”

For instance, the demand for cardiac surgeons has slowed dramatically as a result of better medications and stents. Changes in insurance and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement can also impact specialties, he says.

“Since medical school graduates now carry so much debt, the specialty they choose is often influenced by potential income, which is most evident in the low numbers going into primary care.”

As the age of the nurse workforce continues to increase each year, it also presents education issues. Linda McCauley, PhD, RN, FAAN, and professor and dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory, notes, “Nurses in their 50’s will be the largest segment of the nursing workforce by 2012. The nurse population will decrease significantly as these nurses retire.

“The shortage of nursing faculty is limiting the number of nurses who can receive degrees,” says Dean McCauley. The set-aside in the stimulus plan will also support nursing students who plan to teach nursing when they graduate.

Benjamin G. Druss, PhD, the Rosalynn Carter Chair in Mental Health in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, believes that academic medical centers need to rethink their focus to increase the supply of certain types of doctors. He notes that medical schools remain committed to concentrating on cutting-edge specialties and the general practitioner or internist is sometimes forgotten.

The idea of an allied healthcare model can not only solve personnel shortages, it can also help with growing healthcare costs, says Charles D. Frame, PhD, executive director of the Emory Center for Healthcare Leadership at the School of Medicine and an adjunct associate professor of marketing at Emory Goizueta Business School.

Read more at Knowledge@Emory.

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