In early July 2021, I called a local South Florida medical specialist where I am an established patient for an appointment. The first available appointment was in October—three months away! Adding to my frustration of waiting three months to see my doctor, wait times while I am at the office for my appointment typically range from 20-45 mins. This example is becoming more and more common in the state of Florida. The deep-rooted reason is that current physicians are rethinking their career choice, and people looking at school tracks are choosing not to pursue medicine, leading to a Florida physician shortage.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, there was already data suggesting the upcoming and worsening shortage of physicians and other allied health professionals. Fuel to the shortage fire were reasons such as the added administrative burden on the 21st- century physician, high physician demand due to the growth of the total population, aging state population, and overall aging physicians without an adequate commensurate increase in physician supplies.
Based on current trends, the number of states receiving a grade of “D” or “F” for their physician shortage ratio will increase from 4 in 2017 to 23 by 2030.
What Factors Augment the Florida Physician Shortage?
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a growing, aging population is expected to generate a shortage of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by the year 2032 and that is in the United States, altogether.  In Florida, particularly, almost 60% of physicians are age 50 and older which means retirement is coming sooner than later for them.
 As of November 2020, the state of Florida is short about 1,700 primary care physicians.  Over the next 5-10 years, it is estimated that Florida will need between 3,000-5,000 more providers to come into the state in order to provide care.  To make matters even more dire, currently more than 6 million Floridians live in federally designated “primary care health professional shortage areas.”
Physicians Are Reconsidering Their Career Choices
These startling statistics are not new. These stats have been consistently showcased since the early 2000s and the results tried to show what the shortage would mean—from limited access to longer wait times.  The COVID-19 pandemic added to the crisis. More and more physicians felt that was their tipping point. Their career choice was one they couldn’t bear any more.
54% of physicians have indicated that COVID has changed their future employment plans. Of those, 50% are considering leaving their current healthcare employer, 21% said they may hang up their white coats for early retirement, and 15% are thinking about leaving the practice of medicine altogether.  A single physician’s vacancy can easily cost a healthcare organization $1 million dollars of lost revenue, and recruiting one can cost more than $250,000, which is even more detrimental to healthcare systems and medical practices alike that have struggled since the pandemic started. 
We are in dire need of change and improvement on this growing crisis that is looming over our future. Nearly a quarter of physicians regret their career choice and over a third are unlikely to encourage young people to enter the field! 
Look out for my next blog on key tools that healthcare systems and large practices can implement to reduce burnout, improve the Florida physician shortage outlook, and improve the patient experience.
Written by: Nicole Bramblett, MHA
Photo credit: Projected physician demand and physician supply for the United States of America from 2017 to 2030. From: Physician workforce in the United States of America: forecasting nationwide shortages.
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