The physician shortage in the United States is due to a deficit of residency program spots to train medical graduates. Each year, approximately 8,000 medical graduates fail to match into a residency program in their specialty of choice. It is unacceptable that thousands of qualified physicians are unable to practice due to the bottleneck created by residency training.
While there are several flawed federal policies that need to be addressed, it is just as important to implement state-based solutions to meet the physician shortage and utilize the talents of unlicensed medical graduates.
One exciting proposal is the creation of an Assistant Physician License. This bill would allow unlicensed medical school graduates — those with a MD or DO degree who meet few other criteria — to train and practice in primary care settings. The care they provide would be under the supervision of, and in collaboration with, licensed and board-certified physicians. Missouri has led the way by becoming the first state to implement this program which has been enhancing patient care in their state.
By the time medical students graduate, they generally have completed more than 5 times the clinical hours compared to newly graduated Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and 3 times that of newly graduated Physician Assistants (PAs). NPs have already attained independent practice in 23 states and PAs have been advocating similarly. However medical graduates are unable to obtain a license to practice after graduation unless in residency training, leaving thousands of doctors unlicensed and on the sidelines.
Expanding supervised practice opportunities for MD and DO medical graduates is a common-sense step we can and should take as soon as possible.
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