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More Physicians Aren’t The Only Solution to the Doctor Shortage
A new report from the Surgeon General warns that the country could be short 139,000 doctors by 2033.
According to The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034 (PDF), a report released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) the U.S. faces a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians within 12 years.
Both reports are ominous and highlight one of the most pressing issues in healthcare today: the physician shortage.
A lot has been written about the need to graduate more doctors. And while we agree that more doctors are needed, this is not the only solution to the problem.
Systemic problems in the healthcare system have led to crisis levels of burnout among healthcare workers, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made these challenges worse.
These challenges include understaffing, low wages, inadequate benefits, and stressful working conditions.
The result is a workforce that is exhausted, overworked, and at risk of burnout.
Burnout is making doctors leave the profession and is exacerbating the physician shortage problem.
Doctor suicide rates are two to four times the national average, and one in four medical students report symptoms of depression.
We cannot solve the physician shortage without first addressing the systemic problems that are causing burnout.
This will require a multi-pronged strategy that includes increasing the number of medical students, enhancing the work-life of healthcare workers, and making it easier for doctors to stay in practice.
There is no time to waste
The need for more doctors is an urgent one.
It takes approximately ten years to educate and train a physician.
There simply isn’t enough time to expand medical school capacity, incentivize students to attend, and graduate 100,000 physicians in the next 11 years.
What’s causing physician burnout?
Physician burnout is on the rise. The causes are many, and they are complex. But one thing is clear: if we want to keep our doctors, we need to address the issue head-on.
More than half of healthcare workers report being burned out, while nearly a quarter are considering quitting their jobs in the near future, according to a survey from USA Today and Ipsos Research out Tuesday.
Nearly 40% of respondents agreed with the statement: “The American healthcare system is on the verge of collapse.”
So what’s causing physician burnout? There are many factors, but here are some of the most common ones:
Heavy workloads. Physicians are constantly being asked to do more with less. This can lead to long hours, excessive stress, and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
Electronic health records (EHRs). EHRs are intended to make things easier for physicians, but in reality, they often do just the opposite. They can be time-consuming and tedious to use, and they often don’t produce the desired results.
Reimbursement cuts. Physicians are being paid less and less for their services, which can lead to a feeling of devaluation and frustration.
Declining morale among medical students and residents. Young doctors are often overworked and underpaid, which can lead to feelings of cynicism and disillusionment.
The increasing demands of patients and families. Patients today expect more from their doctors than ever before, and they aren’t shy about letting them know it. This can be frustrating for physicians who already feel stretched thin.
We all pay for physician burnout
According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, physicians pay a high price for burnout, including diminished job satisfaction and career satisfaction, increased stress, and decreased empathy.
The study found that physicians who were burned out were more likely to report the intention to leave their current practice, less likely to recommend their field of medicine as a career, and were less satisfied with all aspects of their jobs.
Burnout is also associated with reduced effectiveness in patient care, as well as an increased risk of medical errors.
But physicians aren’t the only ones paying the price. We are too.
Turnover among primary care physicians costs public and private payers $979 million annually, according to a new American Medical Association-backed study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
About $260 million of those excess costs are attributable to burnout spurring physicians to leave the field, the study, which is based on pre-pandemic data, found.
The costs are incurred when primary care physicians leave and patients lose continuity of care. For example, Medicare beneficiaries spend an additional $189 within the first year of losing a primary care provider due to greater use of specialty, urgent, and emergency care services, according to the study.
What can be done to help physicians avoid burnout?
How do we solve physician burnout?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to addressing physician burnout, as the root cause of this problem can vary from individual to individual. However, there are some steps that can be taken to help alleviate the symptoms of burnout and improve overall well-being. The Surgeon General offered a few ideas:
- It is important to transform workplace culture to empower health workers and be responsive to their voices and needs.
- Punitive policies for seeking mental health and substance use disorder care should be eliminated.
- The health, safety, and well-being of all health workers must be protected.
- Administrative burdens should be reduced to help health workers have a productive time with patients, communities, and colleagues.
- Social connection and community should be prioritized as core values of the healthcare system.
- Investment in public health and our public health workforce is essential.
Let’s take a look at each of these in detail.
Transform workplace culture
Workplace culture is important in any industry, but it is especially important in the healthcare field. Healthcare workers are on the front lines of patient care, and they need to be empowered and responsive to their voices and needs.
Too often, healthcare workplace cultures are authoritarian and hierarchical. Workers are expected to do as they are told, without questioning their superiors. This can lead to frustration and a lack of empowerment among workers. It can also lead to poor communication and a lack of responsiveness to patient needs.
In order to improve the healthcare workplace culture, we need to empower workers and give them a voice. We need to create an environment where they feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas. We also need to be responsive to their needs, both professionally and personally.
Punitive policies for mental health treatment should be eliminated
Mental health and substance use disorder care should be accessible and affordable for everyone who needs it. This means that punitive policies for seeking care should be eliminated.
For too long, healthcare workers have been afraid to seek help for mental health and substance use disorders out of fear of punishment. This has to change. People should not have to suffer in silence because they are worried about how they will be treated by their managers or executives.
Eliminating punitive policies for seeking mental health and substance use disorder care is critical for two reasons. First, it will make it easier for people to get the care they need. Second, it will send a message that we are serious about addressing mental health and substance use disorders.
We need to make it easier for people to get the care they need, not harder.
Protecting worker’s health and safety
The health, safety, and well-being of all health workers must be protected. This includes ensuring that they have the necessary supplies and equipment to do their jobs safely.
Health workers are at risk of being infected with a number of different diseases, including COVID-19. It is therefore important to take steps to protect them from these illnesses. This can include providing them with appropriate protective gear, such as masks, gloves, and aprons, and making sure that they are properly trained in how to use it.
In addition to protecting health workers from disease, it is also important to ensure their safety while working. This includes making sure that they have adequate training in safe work practices and that they are aware of the dangers posed by different types of equipment.
It is also important to provide health workers with a safe place to work. This includes ensuring that the work environment is free from hazards such as chemical spills or radiation leaks.
Reducing administrative burdens
Reducing administrative burdens for health workers is critical to ensuring that they have a productive time with patients, communities, and colleagues. Too often, health workers are bogged down by unnecessary paperwork and bureaucratic tasks, which can take away from their ability to provide quality care.
There are a number of ways to reduce administrative burdens for health workers. One way is to streamline paperwork and bureaucratic processes. Another way is to use technology to automate repetitive tasks. Finally, it is important to make sure that health workers have the support they need to complete their administrative duties in a timely and efficient manner.
Prioritize social connection
The healthcare system should prioritize social connection and community. This is because these are essential for our well-being.
We are social animals, and we need connections to others in order to thrive. Studies have shown that people who have strong social relationships are happier, healthier, and live longer than those who don’t.
Community is also important. We need a sense of belonging and purpose in order to be happy and healthy. A community can provide that sense of connection and purpose.
The healthcare system should focus on creating opportunities for social connection and community. This could include things like social events, support groups, and community gardens. These activities can help people connect with others, find purpose, and improve their health.
Investing in healthcare is essential
Public health is a vital part of our society, and it is essential that we invest in it. One way to do this is by investing in our public health workforce. This workforce is responsible for protecting and promoting the health of our communities, and they need the resources they need to be successful.
One way to ensure that our public health workforce has the resources it needs is by providing funding for training and education. This funding can help workers stay up-to-date on the latest research and techniques, and it can also help them learn new skills.
In addition to funding for training and education, we should also provide funding for equipment and supplies. This equipment and supplies can help workers do their jobs more effectively, and it can also help them protect the safety of the people they serve.
Finally, we should also invest in infrastructure. This infrastructure can include things like laboratories and clinics, and it can help workers conduct their research and provide care to those who need it.
Is locum tenens the solution?
Locum tenens physicians are an essential part of the solution to the physician shortage. By providing temporary coverage for physicians who are on leave, locum tenens physicians help to ensure that patients continue to receive the care they need. In addition, locum tenens physicians can help to reduce the workload of other physicians, which can allow them to focus on more complex cases.
Locum tenens physicians are also a valuable resource for hospitals and clinics that are looking to expand their staff. By hiring locum tenens physicians, these organizations can evaluate potential candidates before making a permanent hire. This can be helpful in ensuring that the new employee is a good fit for the organization.
VISTA Staffing and parent company Ingenovis Health have begun a proprietary program to provide clinicians with the tools and resources they need to flourish, grow, and advance their careers. The ACT Program is a collection of efforts and investments to foster their development and well-being.
This program was designed based on feedback from our frontline healthcare workers and was inspired by our appreciation for and commitment to them.
Investments are being made in a number of areas including:
- Wellness and retention
- Service and support
- Training, coaching, and development
- Achievement and recognition
We are looking to inspire a movement by partnering with like-minded healthcare workforce solutions providers to bring a new voice to the challenges facing healthcare providers, particularly the travelers
Overall, locum tenens physicians play an important role in ensuring that patients receive the care they need. They are a valuable resource for hospitals and clinics, and they can help to reduce the workload of other physicians.
How do locum physicians avoid the burnout that has become so common in the medical profession?
Locum tenens physicians have freedom and flexibility
Locum tenens physicians have the freedom and flexibility to choose when and where they want to work. This gives them a great deal of control over their professional lives and allows them to find the right job for their individual needs. Whether they are looking for a short-term position or a long-term one, locum tenens work can be a great option for physicians who want to have more say in their career path.
Locum physicians get to enjoy a variety of work
Locums are in high demand. This means that you’re likely to find work quickly, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to choose from a variety of assignments. You also won’t have to worry about the stability of your job – as a locum, your work is always secure.
Another great thing about being a locum is that you can often make your own schedule. This gives you the freedom to choose the assignments that interest you the most, and it also allows you to balance your work with your personal life.
Locum tenens physicians are able to make more money
Although many healthcare professionals choose to work full-time as locum tenens, most take part-time assignments in addition to, or instead of, a permanent position.
Physicians frequently work locum tenens in addition to a full-time job to make additional money on the side, especially if assignments may be as brief as a few days or even a few shifts. Some locum tenens assignments are available close to home, while others require travel.
Not to mention, since there are assignments located all over the country, some providers decide to turn locums assignments into working vacations for themselves or their families.
The Surgeon General’s report paints a bleak picture of the future of American healthcare. The country could be short 139,000 doctors by 2033. This problem has been years in the making and is due to systemic problems in the healthcare system. These challenges include understaffing, low wages, inadequate benefits, and stressful working conditions.
Burnout is making doctors leave the profession and exacerbating the physician shortage problem.
One solution to this problem is to increase the number of doctors graduating from medical school. However, there are other solutions that should be considered as well.
Locum physicians are able to avoid the burnout caused by these systemic problems. They have the freedom and flexibility to choose their assignments, they get to enjoy a variety of work, and they are not as burdened by stressors like long hours and heavy patient loads.
At VISTA, we are always looking for excellent medical providers to join our team. As a medical provider, you have devoted your life to assisting others, and we are dedicated to assisting you in taking the next step in your profession.
We offer a variety of opportunities for you to grow your skills in different practice settings while enjoying the independence and flexibility that come with locum tenens employment.
The physician shortage is a complex problem that requires a multi-faceted solution. We would love to hear your feedback on this topic. What have you seen work in your experience? What have you seen fail? Your insights are invaluable and will help shape the conversation. So please, take a moment to leave us a comment below. Thank you for your time and your input.