Some states are finding it tough to retain physicians. Take Virginia for instance:
A recent study found Virginia retains only 35 percent of its medical school graduates and ranks 31st among other states in retaining doctors.
In 2008, Virginia spent more than $50 million from the general fund to support medical education and had nearly 600 new physicians graduate from Virginia’s four medical schools.
Despite this, Virginia still struggles to retain medical graduates, with less than 25 percent of Virginia’s physicians graduating from medical schools in the Commonwealth.
Some feel incentives might work:
Dr. Greenawald says other states including North Carolina have incentives to keep medical students in state. He hopes Virginia considers following suit. Dr. Greenawald also said the over burden of paperwork and insurance company oversight have taken doctors away from what they love doing which is providing care to patients. He said that’s prompted many doctors to retire early.
I’m not so sure. Until more medical students feel primary care is worth the effort, the mass exodus to specialties (and the out-of-state training that is often required) will continue.
-WesMusings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.
*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*
Thank you for your consideration of my profession for your career. I am a primary care physician (PCP) and have practiced for the past 16 years in a privately-owned practice. (At some point I intend to stop practicing and start doing the real thing. It amazes me at how many patients let me practice on them.)
Anyhow, I thought I’d give you some advice as you go through what is perhaps your biggest decision regarding your career. Like me, you probably once thought that choosing to become a doctor was the biggest decision, but within medicine there are many options, giving a very wide range of career choices. It is the final choice that is, well, final. What are you going to do with your life? ”Being a doctor” covers so much range, that it really has little meaning. Dr. Oz is a doctor, and he has a very different life from mine (for one, he’s not the target of Oprah’s contempt like I am -– but that’s a whole other story).
Here are the things to consider when thinking about primary care:
1. Do you like talking to people who are not like you?
Primary care doctors spend time with humans -– normal humans. This is both good and bad, as you see all sides of people, the good, bad , crazy, annoying, funny, and vulnerable sides. If you see mental challenge as the main reason to do something, and would simply put up with the human interaction in primary care, don’t do it. The single most important thing I have with my patients that most non-PCPs don’t have is relationship. I see people over their lifetime, and that gives me a unique perspective.
2. Do you prefer variety over predictability?
Every room I walk into is different –- often vastly different -– from the last. I could be walking in on a crisis or a stable recheck. The person could be elated or crying. They could be 90 years old or two days old. They could have something wrong with any system, and it could range from mild to life-threatening. I’d go nuts doing the same thing every day, be it looking just at skin or just dealing with the kidney. But some folks do better with routine and a lack of surprise, they don’t want their days to be unpredictable. Read more »
With medical students graduating, on average, with almost $160,000 of debt, it’s a major reason why they’re choosing more lucrative specialty practice, which can offer salaries multiple times more than those of primary care fields.
In this clip from The Vanishing Oath, medical economist Amitabh Chandra, Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, discusses that influence, which contributes to a drastic decline of primary care residency slots being filled by American medical graduates.
Of course, it’s not only money. Primary care practice has a litany of obstacles that can contribute to rapid physician burnout, compounded by the fact that good primary care role models are largely absent from academic settings.
But there’s no denying that the salary disparity is an influential factor, and for many students, often a deciding one.
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