KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Few New Doctors Choose Primary Care

Less than a quarter of new doctors are choosing primary care as their specialty, even after finishing residency programs focused on internal medicine, a new study reports.

Reuters: Most Internists Don't Plan To Stay In Primary Care
Less than a quarter of new doctors finishing an internal medicine training program planned to become a primary care physician instead of a specialist, in a new study. That suggests fewer generalists will be entering the workforce, researchers said - possibly exacerbating the primary care doctor shortage in parts of the United States (Pittman, 12/4).

Medpage Today: Few IM Residents Headed For Primary Care
Even in residency programs focused on primary care training, most residents do not plan on pursuing a career in general internal medicine, opting instead to practice subspecialty medicine, a survey showed. Only 21.5 percent of third-year residents in categorical and primary care programs said they were going to go into general internal medicine, whereas 64.2 percent said they planned a subspecialty career, according to Colin West, MD, PhD, and Denise Dupras, MD, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Although those in a primary care program were more likely than those in a categorical program to plan a career in general internal medicine (39.6 percent versus 19.9 percent; OR 2.76, 99 percent CI 2.35 to 3.23), the majority still opted for other career paths, the researchers reported in the Dec. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (Neale, 12/4).

In the meantime, women and nurse practitioners are both becoming a larger part of the medical workforce --

The Wall Street Journal: Women Notch Progress
Women account for a third of the nation's lawyers and doctors, a major shift from a generation ago when those professions were occupied almost exclusively by men, new Census figures show. Women's share of jobs in the legal and medical fields climbed during the past decade even as their share of the overall workforce stalled at slightly less than half (Mitchell, 12/4).

Stateline: Nurse Practitioners Step In Where Doctors Are Scarce
Most people in this rural logging area have only one choice when they need medical care: the Central Virginia Community Health Center. On most days, at least 200 people show up at the center seeking treatment for maladies ranging from sore throats to depression to cavities. The health center typically has four doctors on duty, but the clinical director, Dr. Randall Bayshore, says his staff would never meet local demand if it weren't for the two nurse practitioners who provide the same care, to the same number of patients, as the doctors. Buckingham County is one of roughly 5,800 U.S. communities, with about 55 million residents, that have a shortage of primary care physicians. In these places, many residents are forced to forgo regular checkups and treatment for chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes -- harming their overall health (Vestal, 12/5).

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