Medical schools around the country have experienced an enrollment bump this decade, but those increases could be offset by a shortage of residency positions, experts say.
Allopathic medical schools have seen growth since 2010, with 85,260 students enrolled in 2014, a 2.2% increase over 2013 and an 8.3% increase over 2010. Enrollment at osteopathic medical schools is up, too, with a 6.5% increase in 2014 over 2013 and a 26.4% jump over 2010.
But medical school graduates are finding fewer residency opportunities. Federal budget cuts have led to residency slots growing at a rate of under 1% a year, said Dr. Atul Grover, chief public policy officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 placed a limit on the number of Medicare-supported residency slots. Without greater Medicare funding to train residents, the physician shortage could reach 90,000 by 2025, he said.
“We got enrollment numbers up, now we need to ensure that there are residency spots,” he said.
Complicating matters is the bulge of baby boomer physicians preparing to retire and not enough new doctors to replace them, said Dr. Stephen Shannon, CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Because the number practicing is limited by the number of training slots, the shortage will get worse, he said.
“Residency is where the bottleneck is,” he said.