New Council Calls for Immediate Increase in Physician and Nurse Education

The Council on Physician and Nurse Supply concluded its first meeting in Philadelphia affirming that shortages of physicians already exist in certain geographic areas and that nursing shortages are widespread. At current levels of training, these shortages will deepen and there will be too few physicians and nurses to meet the future needs of the nation. The Council called for immediate efforts to expand medical and nursing education.

Members of the Council, which is based at the University of Pennsylvania and is supported by AMN Healthcare, the nation’s largest healthcare staffing company, expressed concern that persistent shortages of nurses and physicians could have a number of adverse consequences, including the following:

* inadequate access to care, particularly in rural and inner city
* lack of the necessary capacity for emergency preparedness.
* decreased ability to accomplish planned expansions of health care
services, with attendant negative effects on local and national
* increased dependence on foreign nurses and physicians.

With respect to physician supply, the Council concluded that, at current levels of training and under current conditions of the health care system, there would be too few physicians to meet the nation’s future needs. Given the long period required to train physicians, measures should be undertaken immediately to expand medical school capacity and increase the number of graduate medical education (residency) training positions. As is true for nursing education, these initiatives in medical education will require substantial private and public investment.

In considering the nursing shortage, the Council noted that a growing body of research supports the relationship between the level of nursing education and both the quality and safety of patient care. Therefore, in expanding nursing education, the emphasis should be at the baccalaureate (BSN) level. However, nurse education is currently balanced toward associate degree nursing (ADN) programs, which receive the bulk of federal funding for nurse education, yet few ADN graduates progress to advanced practice and faculty roles, both of which are needed. The Council urged a national effort to substantially expand BSN training.

While the Council emphasized the need to address the issues of shortages of supply, it also urged continued efforts to change the structure of the health care system and noted that the ultimate dimensions of the health care workforce would be influenced by the changes that will occur.

Finally, the Council called attention to the fact that nurses and physicians are interdependent and that shortages in either discipline would aggravate shortages in the other. It concluded by calling for dual efforts to expand the infrastructure for nursing and medical education.

About the Council on Physician and Nurse Supply and AMN Healthcare

The Council on Physician and Nurse Supply is an independent, multi-disciplinary group dedicated to proposing ways to better align physician and nurse training capacity with the nation’s needs. It is based in the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Care Economics and is co-chaired by Richard “Buz” Cooper, MD and Linda Aiken, Ph.D., RN. The council is supported by AMN Healthcare, San Diego, the nation’s largest healthcare staffing company.
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