WASHINGTON — While the national shortage in nurses has been well documented, there is another health care crisis that is less well publicized: the likely shortage of doctors in Minnesota as well as across the United States.
Randy Rice, a family physician specialist in Moose Lake who is also the president of Minnesota Medical Association (MMA), considers himself one of those doctors who might be able to retire earlier.
He stated that increased red tape from insurance companies, stress from the COVID-19 panic and consolidations of medical practices had led to burnout and a loss in autonomy. This is leading doctors to quit their practice.
Rice, 61, said that “it’s definitely a lot different now then it was when I first started practicing”
According to the American Medical Association, the United States will face a shortage of between 37.800 and 124,000 doctors within twelve years. According to the Mayo Clinic, “medicine’s great retirement” will have a significant impact on healthcare. The Mayo Clinic surveyed 20,000 people at 124 institutions in the country. One in five doctors plans to quit medicine completely, and one in three plan to reduce their work hours.
Rice wrote an opinion piece in the MMA newsletter, “As a rural physician, I have seen dimensions of burnout including emotional exhaustion and depersonalization and loss of personal achievement, up close – with my coworkers, and in the mirror every morning.”
MinnPost was told by him that many doctors have lost the drive to work long hours, and make other sacrifices.
Rice stated that many of them feel like they’re punching the clock.
Rice began to think about moving forward with his retirement, even before the pandemic.
Rice stated that although many doctors who want to retire from their practice are older than they are now, many of them are still working.
Minnesota is blessed to have more doctors per capita than other states. Sterling Price of Value Penguin analyzed Bureau of Labor statistics and data from the Health Resources and Service Administration to determine that Minnesota has more doctors per capita than any other state. Only South Dakota and Massachusetts have higher doctor per capita.
Sterling estimates that Minnesota has almost 34 doctors per 1,000 people. These doctors are concentrated in certain areas, such as urban neighborhoods or suburban areas. The medical resignation will also affect the rest of Minnesota.
Rice stated that it would be more difficult for people get appointments and harder for them to receive the care they need. He also said that people will have to drive longer to get to appointments.
Rice stated that doctor shortages would be most severe in rural areas like the one Rice serves in Moose Lake.
According to a report by the Minnesota Department of Public Health on the health care workforce shortages, “One in three rural doctors plan to quit their profession within five years.”
Rice stated that the shortages will also affect lower-income urban areas, which are already underserved by medical care.
Primary physicians and psychologists will be the most in-demand types of doctors.
Sterling predicted that Minnesota would experience a shortage of primary care doctors by 34%. According to the MDH report, the most vacancies are currently in the areas mental health care and substance abuse care. “One in four jobs is currently vacant or open for hiring.”
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Health, providers are already experiencing a shortage of workers in Minnesota.
MDH’s study recommended several measures to stop the loss of health care professionals. These included a program to forgive school loans for health care providers, and urging hospitals and other employers “safe, flexible and well-paid” to ensure that health care jobs are safe, flexible, well paid, and family friendly.
Another solution is to establish “rural clinical tracks” to train primary care physicians and psychiatrists in the greater Minnesota area. Additionally, new funding will be available to mental health providers to help pay for the supervision they need to receive before being licensed to practice.
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, enrollment in national medical schools has increased, but only by a few percentage points over the last few years. According to the AAMC, graduate school enrollment was 95,475 in the 2021-2022 school year.
Minnesota’s graduate medical school enrollment was nearly flat, with an average of 1,500 students attending the University of Minnesota Alix School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic Alix Schools of Medicine over the two previous school years.