Specialty Spotlight: Family Physician Shortage Fuels Demand for Locum Family Practice Doctors

Family Physician Shortage Fuels Demand for Locum Family Practice Doctors

It's the week of the family practice physician and resident physician, as the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) kicks off its 2016 National Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. If you're going, stop by booth 1440 to visit a friendly Staff Care rep! You can also follow us as we live-tweet the AAFPNC on Twitter.

What role does the locum tenens family medicine physician have in today's healthcare industry? A breed of doctors boasting the "flexibility to tailor their clinical services to the unique needs of their patients and their situations," per the AAFP, family physicians are typically trained in "hospital-based medicine, including critical care and obstetrical procedures."

Other quick family medicine facts from the AAFP include:

  • "AAFP members had a mean individual income of $195,310 in 2014."
  • "AAFP members worked an average of 47 weeks in the last year."
  • "Approximately 94 percent of AAFP members participate in Medicare."
  • "More than half of family medicine residency programs are community-based and affiliated with a medical school."

As the doctor shortage continues to worsen — and as it continues to hit primary care doctors the hardest — demand for these valuable, versatile physicians to work locum tenens family practice jobs is skyrocketing. Here's what you should know about the state of family medicine employment in the United States — and don't hesitate to contact a friendly Staff Care recruiter at any time to get even more details on how locum tenens family practice assignments can help you build some great career experience while also helping out a community in heed.

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A Brief Look at America's Family Physician Shortage

"The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) projects a shortage of 149,000 physicians by 2020," reports Staff Care's 2015 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends.

"In 2015, we estimate that 2,504 family physicians and general practitioners, 2,346 general internists, and 1,177 pediatricians are expected to retire," according to a 2015 study published in the Annals of Family Medicine. "During the next decade, these numbers will increase substantially."

The AAFP has been giving voice to concerns and suggestions regarding the ongoing family physician shortage for the past decade. In 2006 the group recommended "that to meet the nation's anticipated need for primary care in the year 2020, the United States must have at least 139,531 family physicians, or a ratio of 41.6 family physicians per 100,000 people," reported the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (The report adds that "there were 31.2 family physicians per 100,000 people" in 2004.)

"To achieve that target, 3,725 family physicians will need to be produced annually by Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited family medicine residencies, and 714 annually by American Osteopathic Association (AOA)-accredited family medicine residencies.

"The typical ACGME-accredited family medicine residency will need to expand from an average of 21 residents to 24 residents. Overall, the new AAFP workforce policy calls for an approximate 39 percent increase in the number of family physicians to meet the health care needs of the American people."

"The nation’s 8,441 family medicine residents, all of whom will soon be entering the job market, therefore are a coveted resource," concludes the Staff Care 2015 Survey of Family Medicine Residents.

The Growing Demand for Locum Tenens Family Medicine Physicians

Staff Care's Staff Care's 2015 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing TrendsAll this adds up to an increased demand for locum tenens family medicine physicians — or those doctors able and willing to work temporary (locum tenens) assignments in family medicine, particularly as a means to help out hospitals and communities lacking a primary care practitioner.

Also noteworthy is the fact that family practice doctors generate a good deal of income for hospitals. Citing the Merritt Hawkins 2013 Physician Inpatient/Outpatient Revenue Survey, the Staff Care Survey notes that family practice tops the list of physician revenue generators at $172,297 per year (followed by internal medicine, general surgery and psychiatry at $163,995, $155,055 and $108,553, respectively).

(This information may come as a surprise given the fact that income and practice conditions for family physicians "still trails that of medical specialists," according to the Staff Care Survey authors.)

Given their value to both patients and facilities, it stands to reason that locum tenens family medicine physicians are the most-utilized in the healthcare industry, according to Staff Care's Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends. The survey, which includes family medicine as part of the primary care physician specialty — along with internal medicine and pediatrics — reports that PCP specialties make up about a third of all locum physician jobs for the past three years.

"In many cases, hospitals, medical groups and other healthcare facilities are using locum tenens physicians to fill in gaps in their primary care staffs," the survey authors note, connecting the family physician shortage to the current surging demand for locum family practice physicians.

Staff Care's 2015 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing TrendsAs for the family medicine physicians themselves, more and more of them are embracing the chance to work locum tenens assignments. Staff Care's 2015 Survey of Family Medicine Residents "confirms that the majority of residents in family medicine have at least some awareness of locum tenens," the survey authors explain. "Sixty-seven percent said they are somewhat or very familiar with the term, while 12% said they are vaguely familiar. Only 21% said they are unfamiliar with locum tenens.

“However, only 3% have worked as a 'locum' during their training," the survey adds, noting the importance that younger physicians gain more familiarity with the locum tenens model during their residencies to help enable them to better navigate the employment scenarios facing them (and to help healthcare facilities better fill their vacant positions).

"The majority of family medicine residents surveyed, 55% of whom will complete their programs in 2016, are still undecided about their first jobs," the family resident survey authors add. "Fifty percent said they have put little to no time into considering job offers, 36% said they have considered job offers but have not interviewed, 10% said they have interviewed but have not accepted a job offer, and only 4% have accepted offers."

"Though they are highly recruited, the survey indicates most family medicine residents, even those coming out of residency in less than a year, are still considering their job options.”

If you're a family medicine resident or working physician interested in learning more about the career options currently available to you — including the prospect of working family medicine positions nationwide — we want to hear from you! You can contact a Staff Care recruiter here, or search all available locum tenens family practice jobs here.

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