Physician Shortage

February 1, 2007

I read your article, Disappearing Docs, in the issue of October 2006, in which you indicated that “the physician shortage is real.” It was very interesting. However, you didn’t mention pediatrics. Is this specialty at the bottom? How do you see the future of general pediatrics and subspecialties? I read in another article in your magazine that our future looks “bleak.” I am going on my 10th year of practicing, and my instinct tells me that I may have to make some adjustments, maybe even changing specialty, for the next 20 years.

Question: I read your article, Disappearing Docs, in the issue of October 2006, in which you indicated that “the physician shortage is real.” It was very interesting. However, you didn’t mention pediatrics. Is this specialty at the bottom? How do you see the future of general pediatrics and subspecialties? I read in another article in your magazine that our future looks “bleak.” I am going on my 10th year of practicing, and my instinct tells me that I may have to make some adjustments, maybe even changing specialty, for the next 20 years.

Answer: I don’t have any data specific to pediatrics. But my subjective opinion is that these large trends in demand should only be a single factor when it comes to the direction of your career.

If you love doing general pediatrics and can find a way to make your practice work for you, great. There will always be children who need help. The fact that there is not as much demand right now for pediatricians as for internal medicine physicians doesn’t mean no one needs pediatricians anymore.

If you have other reasons for considering a subspecialty - like income or you just love surgery - then all those factors together might make a change worth it.

The American Association of Pediatrics did some work on shortage issues in the late ‘90s. That’s out of date now and the Association Web site doesn’t reveal anything more, but it might be worth contacting them to see what data they might have.

I hope these musings help somewhat.