Covid Burnout and 5 Other Reasons for a Shrinking Physician Pool

Based on our data, we have noticed a 15% reduction in physicians seeking jobs over the last 18 months. Considering all the upheavals of the past two years, it’s hard to be surprised by that.  

Here are several converging factors that are contributing to this phenomenon. 

COVID-19 Burnout

Experts at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predict the U.S. will face an increasing shortage of physicians within the next decade—somewhere between 37,800 and 124,000 positions. Many factors drive physicians to retire early or settle into their current position until they are able to retire. 

A study published by the Mayo Clinic based on a sample size of more than 20K healthcare professionals at 124 institutions reported that fully one-third of physicians are looking to reduce their working hours. Another recent survey from the Primary Care Collaborative and Larry A. Green Center discovered that 62% of those surveyed have personal knowledge of primary care physicians who have retired or quit their practice due to factors related to the pandemic. 

Baby Boomer Retirement Strain

The combination of COVID-19 burnout and the timing of baby boomers retiring has impacted the healthcare landscape. There are simply fewer physicians in the field, which has increased the demand for nurses and other supporting roles, which leads to our next point… 

An Increase in Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants

Hospitals are hiring more nurse practitioners and physician assistants, which may in part explain the reduction in numbers of physicians seeking jobs in our database. Insurance companies helped pave the way for this trend when they expanded their coverage of nurse practitioners’ responsibilities. 

Currently, many young people are opting for the nurse practitioner track rather than going for a medical degree. The former involves less time in school and incurring considerably less debt. A new nurse practitioner can immediately start earning a mid-six figure salary when entering the workforce. This can be more appealing for those who want to work in primary care but do not want to travel the longer physician path. 

Upward Mobility in Existing Hospital Systems

The wave of retirements among baby boomer physicians has created upward mobility within existing clinics and hospitals for younger doctors. As physicians retire, new opportunities for those within the system become available. When a job “comes” to a physician, there is no need to search or apply.

Resident Matching Programs

COVID-19 has impacted many physicians who are approaching residency. In turn, resident matching programs have been delayed due to the pandemic. The complications of this process has slowed the influx of new physicians into the workplace. Time will tell if we will see an influx over the next year or two, now that the worst disruptions of the pandemic appears to be behind us.  

The Rise of Telemedicine 

Telemedicine has been a winner for many patients and physicians. Indeed, the “rise” in telemedicine practice may be an understatement. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there was a 63-fold increase in Medicare telehealth utilization during the pandemic. For doctors, technology has enabled many to stay in their current positions while potentially adding extra income on the side.

While each of these phenomena are contributing factors to disruption and burnout, there are many more layers to this data. At PhysEmp, we understand the significance of analyzing real-time data and how it can assist our clients’ recruitment strategy. That is why we push for providing leads that are current and relevant to their needs.

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