There are five medical specialties that need more doctors. The United States faces a looming doctor shortage. According to a recent report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, we could be short as many as 124,000 physicians in the next 12 years.
There are several reasons for the growing gap between doctor supply and patient demand, but the main one is demographic. Between 2019 and 2034, the population of people who are 65 and over is projected to grow by 42.4% — four times the rate of overall U.S. population growth. An older population means more demand for health care.
At the same time, we can expect a wave of physician retirements. More than two in five practicing U.S. doctors will be 65 or older within the next decade. Here are five specialties facing acute shortages of doctors in the future.
Psychiatry- five medical specialties
Psychiatry is one of the five medical specialties that need more doctors. Even before the pandemic, the United States faced a mental health crisis, with one in 10 adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression. The United States was already short about 6,100 psychiatrists in 2019, according to federal data.
Since then, the problem has gotten worse. The Covid-19 pandemic caused a 25% spike in anxiety and depression, according to the World Health Organization. Substance abuse and difficulties with sleeping and eating have also increased.
Psychiatry is a specialty for doctors who like building relationships with the people they are treating. They spend about 60% of their work hours with patients and treat some individuals over long periods of time.
After medical school, most psychiatrists complete a four-year residency. Many undertake an additional year-long fellowship in a subspecialty such as forensic psychiatry, sleep medicine, or addiction.
The second medical specialty that needs more doctors is critical care. Critical care physicians look after extremely ill patients, including those on life support or with severe trauma. Also known as intensive care doctors, these professionals have been on the front lines of the pandemic, caring for patients with life-threatening cases of Covid-19. Critical care is one of a subset of 12 specialties for which the AAMC report projects a total shortage of up to 13,400 doctors by 2034.
Needless to say, this specialty puts doctors in high-pressure situations on a regular basis. Some are drawn to the field because of the variety: there is no such thing as a typical day because the pace is fast and unpredictable. While intensive care teams may witness death and loss on any given day, they also have daily opportunities to offer hope and save lives.
For the rest of the medical specialties that need more doctors, read our latest article on Forbes: Five Medical Specialties.