Doctor shortage grows in Wisconsin

By Amy Olson

Wisconsin residents can expect to wait longer or travel farther to see a doctor as a long-anticipated shortage of physicians appears to be taking hold.

More than 500 job openings have been posted on a new physician recruiting Web site maintained by the Wisconsin Council for Medical Education and Workforce.

Aspirus has openings for doctors at 23 sites, said Dawn Decker, manager of physician recruitment for Aspirus Clinics. Many of those openings are in primary care, a relatively new concern for the system.

“We hope our phones start ringing,” Decker said.

By 2020, the country could face a shortage of 180,000 to 200,000 doctors, said David Nyman, manager of physician recruiting for Marshfield Clinic.

Marshfield Clinic is recruiting for 115 openings. For specialties such as orthopedics, the Clinic might hire doctors in their fourth year of residency, knowing they won’t be able to start for two to three years, after their fellowship training is over.

By 2016 — the year older baby boomers turn 70 years old — the national ratio of physicians to the population is expected to peak, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Older doctors will be retiring as an aging population is demanding more health care.

“A lot of providers are age 50 and older,” Nyman said.

Those shortages could mean longer waits for patients to get in to see their doctors, or that they might have to travel out of the area for specialty care.

Wisconsin retains 38 percent of the doctors who graduate from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin, said Dr. Carl Getto, chairman of the Wisconsin Council for Medical Education and Workforce. That isn’t enough, however, to stay ahead of the growing demand for care.

Many medical school graduates choose to practice in the state where they attended medical school, completed their residency training or grew up, said Dr. Robert Fishman, a California native and UW graduate who now is a second-year resident at the Family Medicine Residency program in Wausau.

Younger doctors look for jobs via the Internet, Fishman said. Seeing a big need could help them know they’re likely to have numerous patients to treat.

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