“RESIDENCY, it will not matter how many doctors we graduate if we do not increase the number of residency positions available to them after graduation.”
After starting school to become a D.O. I quickly realized how much of an information gap there is between medical providers and the public. Several conversations I’ve had point to this, like when people ask me what I do, I respond I am in medical school and then they ask me if I want to be a nurse. To save my breath, I usually wind up not explaining that medical school and nursing school are two important, but distinct, medical training programs. This conversation isn’t an isolated example, I can count three times that it has happened to me, in different environments. This isn’t a jab at the public, it is simply a concern of mine.
For a general interest and because some parts of this education will become important later on in the post, I will explain the typical education requirements of doctors and nurses.
Doctor: 4 yrs undergraduate degree, 4 years medical education (aka “medical school”), varying years of residency training (3 – 5 on average), also called graduate medical education, or GME for short. Residency is where doctors choose their specialty (this is the part that will become important later), some further sub-specialize after residency by completing a fellowship. You can expect a doctor to have a minimum of 11 years of training.
Nurse: 2 yrs minimum undergraduate degree to become and RN, 4 year undergraduate degree to attain a BSN (these are both called “nursing school”). Some nurses go on to pursue some graduate level training to become nurse practitioners. You can expect a nurse to have a minimum of 2 years of training.
The lack of even basic understanding of what medical professions there are, and what one does to become a medical provider, probably means that even more complex social issues involving medicine is even less likely to be understood. This means that medical policies and issues facing patients and providers will never get the attention that they deserve, unless we as medical providers and those in-the-know, champion them.
That is why this blog post is going to tackle an issue we are facing, the physician shortage. I will not bother to post statistics on it, a simple google search can highlight those, but I can explain what this shortage means. Essentially, it is considered an ideal minimum of 1 doctor per ever 1,000 people. We as a nation are way past that. You may not notice the physician shortage if you live in an affluent suburban neighborhood, but some urban and especially rural communities have a lack of basic adequate medical care.
To combat the shortage, medical schools are called upon to increase their class sizes to graduate more doctors. There are also several new medical schools opening across the United States. This is great, but it is only half of the solution to the shortage problem. The other half of the solution involves RESIDENCY, it will not matter how many doctors we graduate if we do not increase the number of residency positions available to them after graduation.
That is why I am writing this post, this long-winded blog can be summarized in one sentence. The general population needs to be made aware of this situation and we need to encourage them to contact our lawmakers and petition to increase funding for graduate medical education. See below to sign a petition to do so, keep your eyes open for other petitions to increase GME funding and contact your elected legislative official.