Physicians are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that jobs for doctors will grow 24 percent between 2010 and 2020.
In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has suggested that the country will lack between 40,800 and 104,999 doctors by 2030.
As a result, today’s physicians will continue to have exceptional career choices if you plan early and wisely.
Moving towards Employment
One of the most significant trends in recent years has been the fast-moving trend away from the traditional private, independent practice model, and towards increasing levels of employment by large healthcare groups (e.g., Ascension Health, Community Health Systems)
Residents entering the profession today are far more likely to gain employment than they would have been just a few years ago.
Part of this trend can be explained by the changes to the way physicians are paid for the work they do, which have served to make self-employment less profitable. Physicians are trading the autonomy of the private practice model for the certainty of a pay check.
However, the commercial growth strategies of the large healthcare groups are also fueling this trend: hospital ownership of physician practices increased by 86% in just three years as hospitals acquired 31,000 physician practices in the USA between 2012 and 2015.
In 2012, one in seven medical practices was owned by a hospital; by 2015, that ratio was one in four. This trend is inevitably following through into the types of recruitment opportunities: recruitment agency Merritt Hawkins reports that in 2016/17, 43% of its physician search assignments were for hospitals, and 27% for groups. What’s more, 90 percent of its searches were for the employment model rather than the private practice model.
Making Healthcare More Convenient for All Consumers
The success of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQCHs) has led to a significant expansion of these centers over recent years – doubling the number of patients served between 2000 and 2016 – and driving recruitment opportunities here too.
The National Association of Community Health Centers reports that “Workforce challenges are one of the primary barriers to health center patient growth. If all health center clinical vacancies were filled today, health centers could serve 2 million more patients.”
The growth of convenient care, including increasing numbers of urgent care centers and retail clinics located in supermarkets and shopping centers, also offers up new opportunities for employment. As with FQCHs, most of these recruitment opportunities are in primary care.
It’s no surprise, then, that Primary Care heads up the list of fields that is in highest demand.
The move towards primary-care led healthcare delivery and the relatively low pay of primary care physicians is exacerbating demand. The AAMC’s report shows that primary care will see the highest shortfall of doctors – with a predicted shortfall of up to 43,100 doctors by 2030.
In fact, the sector is already under pressure. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, primary care physicians comprise 48% of the physician workforce, and are currently experiencing a shortfall of approximately 8,500 doctors.
Hospitals and Veterans Affairs Hospitals
Demand for primary care physicians and the acquisition strategies of the large hospitals and groups coalesced to create a growing opportunity for hospitalists. Because no residencies exist in hospitalist programs yet, routes into this role are dominated by general internal medicine.
As healthcare providers focus increasingly on population health management, it is likely that the demand for primary care doctors will continue to rise.
Psychiatry must play an important role in successful population health management, so demand is expected to rise in this field too. As in many fields, the aging workforce is also driving demand – almost half of existing psychiatrists are expected to retire within the next five years.
Already, almost 77% of U.S. counties report a severe psychiatrist shortage, but Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, in particular, are eager to recruit.
Although VA hospitals represent a relatively small part of the overall healthcare provider landscape, recent national concern over long wait times at VA facilities have driven recruitment activity for these centers – and hundreds of physician recruitment opportunities exist for those facilities.
Striking a Better Work-Life Balance
Because of the shortage of physicians across the board, and most acutely in primary care, professional recruiters are also reporting a rise in the number of temporary contracts and opportunities.
In its 2017 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends, healthcare staffing firm Staff Care reports that, of those healthcare facility managers surveyed, 94% had used locum physicians sometime during the last 12 months – up from 91% in 2014, and from 74% in 2012.
As the difficulties to fill physician positions becomes more acute, it is likely that hospitals and other healthcare providers will be increasingly forced to look to temporary staffing solutions to fill the gaps – offering opportunities to physicians who prefer to take a more flexible approach to working life.
Physicians today are in a great position with many career opportunities and competitive salaries. Whether the choice is for full-time or part-time employment, the current demand for talent is such that employment is only a matter of choosing where to begin.