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Match Day a Cause for Relief and Concern

Match Day a Cause for Relief and Concern

Match Day, the time medical school graduates learn whether they have been matched to a residency program, has lately been an occasion of both relief and concern for those who follow physician supply trends in the United States.

The same is likely to be true for the 2015 Match announcements now underway.

The 2014 National Resident Match Program (NRMP) Main Residency Match was the largest in NRMP history dating back to 1952, as measured by the number of positions offered (29,671) and the number of positions filled (28,490). According to the NRMP, “the 26,678 PGY-1 positions constituted an all-time high and an increase of 540 over 2013, with more than half the increased attributable to growth in Family Medicine and Internal Medicine.”

That was a relief.

The concern in 2014 was that despite the high number of positions filled, several hundred U.S. medical school graduates did not match, adding to the 500 who reapplied to the Match in 2013 but did not secure a residency.

Because of the cap put on residency funding by Congress in 1997, the annual Match has become more competitive. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the number of U.S. medical school matriculants will increase to 21,349 by 2016. Combined with larger numbers of graduates from osteopathic schools and international graduates entering the Match, there soon may be too few residency positions to accommodate U.S. medical school graduates.

For students who have spent four years in college and four years in medical school (racking up an average debt of over $160,000 in the process), the prospect of not matching is a grim one. For those who believe the nation is in the midst of a growing physician shortage, the fact that U.S. medical school graduates may not be able to find residencies is discouraging, to say the least.

Match Day 2015 will bring relief (particularly to those medical school graduates who were matched to the programs of their choice) but it also is a time to consider the cap on residency funding that is inhibiting physician supply. How many medical school graduates will have to be turned away before the cap is lifted?

I would welcome comments from those concerned by this problem and from those who may have solutions.

If you are a younger physician finishing your training and would like to know more about locum tenens, please visit our Residents & Fellows page to take advantage of all the free tools and resources we offer.

Phillip Miller is Vice President of Communications for Staff Care and Merritt Hawkins, companies of AMN Healthcare (NHSE: AHS). He can be reached at phil.miller@merritthawkins.com.