Doctor Shortage Not Impacting Just Veterans

By:  Raven Clabough
Doctor Shortage Not Impacting Just Veterans

An investigative report released last week helped to shed some light on an issue that is plaguing America's veterans.

According to the report, 1,700 veterans waiting to see a doctor at a Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital were in fact missing from an official waiting last. The report also revealed that the Veterans Affairs Department is short of 400 doctors. And the National Journal reported that the shortage of doctors is not merely limited to the VA.

"America is running out of doctors," wrote the National Journal. "The country will be 91,500 physicians short of what it needs to treat patients by 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. By 2025, it will be short 130,600."

The highest demand for the Veterans Affairs Department, as well as nationwide, is for primary care physicians, such as general internists, family doctors, and pediatricians — the types of doctors many people go to first for non-emergency medical attention before seeing specialists. In 2012, an Annals of Family Medicine study predicted the country will need 52,000 more primary-care physicians by 2025.

But even as students are enrolling in medical schools in record numbers, those students won't necessarily become doctors in the near future. The National Journal explained, "The number of residencies — crucial stages of medical training — has not risen with the number of applicants, thanks to a government imposed cap." Organizations such as the Association of American Medical Colleges have been lobbying for a change to the law, asserting that there will not be enough residencies to meet the demands of the incoming young doctors by next year.

"Residency training gives new physicians hands-on experience and provides high-quality care to patients," said American Medical Association President Jeremy Lazarus, M.D. "Limiting the slots available to train physicians as they leave medical school creates a bottleneck in the system and prevents the physician workforce from growing to meet the needs of our nation’s patients."

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