Current Family Practice Jobs – Primary Care Physician Demographics
In the 1990s a claxon warned of the shortage of primary care physicians, especially family practice physicians. As a result, there was a major shift in the training of young physicians: more medical students were directed to primary care residencies, and new family practice rotations and residencies were put in place all over the country. The number of family practice physicians swelled – the AMA (ref.1) found that from 1997 to 2002 the number of family practice physicians practicing in the US jumped by 18% to 76,511. This exceeded the growth of other specialities, even the other major primary care speciality internal medicine, which grew by 11% in the same period.
More recent trends, however, again suggest a looming shortage of primary care physicians, but given potential shifts in health care policy it is not yet clear to what extent this potential shortfall will affect family practice job openings.
According to a recent article in Medical Economics (ref. 2), the rapid growth in the number of family practice physicians outstripped the growth in family practice jobs. As a result, it is much more difficult to find family practice jobs than it is to find internal medicine jobs.
The median family practice physician salary sits around $142,000. While salary level varies by region and experience, family practice salaries, and primary care salaries in general, buck the trend in being higher in rural areas than in major cities. The median annual bonus for family practitioners is nearly $6500. (Ref. 3)
Outlook For Family Practice Jobs
While the general outlook for physicians is good, it is unclear what the future holds for the family practice field. The AMA remains in favor of continuing to grow the number of family practice physicians, noting that primary care shortages still exist in underserved areas of the country. In addition, it is becoming more difficult to fill FP positions with international medical graduates.
Others, however, argue that the number of family practice residency spots should remain constant. In 2004, only 79% of family practice residency spots were filled (ref. 2). The Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME, ref. 4) has recently suggested increasing the number of US medical graduates by 15%, however, they also suggest that there be no increase in family practice residencies.
Edward Salsberg, director of workforce studies for the Association of American Medical Colleges, was recently quoted by Medical Economics (ref. 2) as pushing for patience to see if the demand for family practitioners increases after the workforce expansion in the 1990s: “…I wouldn’t recommend expansion in family medicine or pediatric residency slots. Family physicians had this big ramp-up in the ’90s, and you have to give it a little more time to see whether demand is going to pick up.”
Family Practice locum tenens positions are still available, but most are to be found rural or otherwise underserved regions of the U.S. Salary levels for these jobs are somewhat higher than the national median, given the location of most of the open family practice jobs.
1. American Medical Association
2. Jobs 2004: Primary care outlook – Medical Economics, May 2004
4. Council on Graduate Medical Education
Physician jobs and employment – information on employment opportunities for a variety of medical and surgical specialties; with a focus on the physician’s job search.
Physician resource – a discussion of online resources for physicians in the US.