Lack of Residency Slots Poses a Serious Problem for the Future of Healthcare

Residency Cap Medical Students

As the United State’s population has continued to increase each year, it is both natural and vitally necessary that the number of students to enroll in medical school has risen as well. Enrollment rates have increased by 25 percent since 2002, slightly smaller than the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) 30 percent goal, to keep up with the growing demand for doctors.

Since 2002, 20 new medical schools have opened in order to accommodate this growth. However there is still a very serious problem inhibiting these medical students and future healthcare professionals: lack of open residency positions.

An M.D. with nowhere to go

Every student must complete a residency program in a field of their choosing in order to complete graduate training and begin professionally practicing medicine without the supervision of an attending physician. But residency slots have not increased at the same rate as med school enrollment, leaving many students at a career a dead end before they’ve even finished their education.

Considering the majority of residency positions are paid for by Medicare, those who are affected by the lack of residency openings are looking to government funding as the primary solution. In 1997, the Balanced Budget Act was passed that declared the number of residency positions government would fund. Unfortunately, there has been no increase in the cap since, and federal budget cuts in other aspects of hospital education have only further impacted physician training for the worse.

Future impact will only worsen

AAMC predicts that one-third of U.S. doctors will retire in the next decade, resulting in a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians by 2020. This is only worsened by the fact that 10,000 baby boomers turn 65-years old every day, thus require more medical care, as well as the increase in general primary care patients due to Obamacare.

AAMC claims that an additional 4,000 medical students will need to be trained each year in order to keep up with the growing demand for doctors. The association has urged Congress to take action by passing legislation to raise the cap on funded residency positions. The fact that it is currently taking a toll on advanced education is bad enough, but if something is not done to address the physician shortage, it will soon become a problem that affects U.S. healthcare and the population as a whole.

Samantha Hendricks
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