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Physician, medical professional shortage shuffles in incentives

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 7:20 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Many workforces are struggling during the pandemic, and one that has been continually strained is the medical field. A shortage by tens of thousands of physicians is projected in the US if more don’t enter the field

A mom of three in her 30s, Amy Arias isn’t the traditional student, much less the traditional medical student.

“I’m really glad I’m coming into it a little bit later because I think I’m bringing into a little different perspective,” said Amy Arias, a Primary Care Physicians Scholarship recipient. “For me, I don’t think I really thought it was an option for me until I went through enough life experiences.”

She’s one of 23 new future primary care physicians in the UA Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program. It covers tuition costs for medical students in exchange for them working as primary care doctors in Arizona. It’s life changing for Arias, who will put her own kids through college soon, but she said it is important for the whole community.

“We need physicians here. We need people who are going to take care of us long term. Patients need access to physicians,” she said. “It’s a real issue, and it’s not getting better unfortunately.”

According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, by 2034 the US will have a shortage of primary care doctors of up to 48,000. They found a big portion of the workforce is at retirement age, more than two of every five active physicians in the U.S. will be 65 or older within the next decade.

Sadly, they also found at least 40 percent of physicians felt burnt out before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, separate from primary care shortages, staffing woes are a top priority for area hospitals, as nurses doctors and respiratory therapists hit the road as travel staff for higher paying jobs or leave the industry all together.

“The headwinds in healthcare are really strong right now. Our workforce is struggling. I think there are nurses and physicians who are choosing to leave the profession, so the first order of business is to really stabilize our workforce,” said Mimi Coomler with CEO Tucson Medical Center.

TMC said they’re starting travel-type contracts for their core staff to help retain crucial staff. Still, the main solution to a future of shortages is to get more people into the field.

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