Primary Care Has Become Secondary for Doctors

A recent story in USA Today outlines the decline in the number of doctors practicing family medicine. Apparently medical students and doctors think specializing will bring more money and perhaps more prestige than entering primary care. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that the percentage of medical school graduates selecting primary care has declined about 52 percent since 1997. This in turn means our nation may have a shortage of some 40,000 primary care physicians by 2020.

Being a family medicine doctor, some believe, is a thankless job. You work long hours, get paid less, and you have to deal with a lot of bureaucratic and administrative garbage. However, primary care physicians are supposed to be the ones guiding our health care and keeping tabs on our various treatments. In short, the primary care physician is meant to be our go-to person when it comes to medical issues.

So what does this looming shortage mean for us? It could mean it will be more difficult to find a family doctor, and then maybe we’ll have to wait longer just to see the doctor. I for one hope this is untrue, as I am already finding it hard to find a good primary care physician, and I already have to wait a long time to get an appointment with my current family doctor.

Medical students and those thinking about medical careers need to take a good look at why they want to go into the medical field to begin with. If it’s because they want to help people, then primary care should be the most attractive option, since it’s ideally where you build long-lasting relationships with patients.