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Where Have all the OBGYN Physicians Gone?Paul Olzak, MBA, CPRP

Where Have all the OBGYN Physicians Gone?

If you are a physician recruiter with an OBGYN position to fill, you are likely aware of the struggle to recruit an OBGYN physician in 2024. The pervasive OBGYN shortage will continue to intensify as the impending physician shortage looms. This crisis poses a profound challenge to maternal and infant healthcare in the US. By 2030, it is projected that the country will see a deficit of around 3,000 OB-GYNs, despite a growing need for these specialists. This anticipated shortage is largely due to a combination of an aging physician workforce, the growing provider preference toward the OB hospitalist practice setting, escalating rates of professional burnout, and recent legislative changes impacting the field.

Where have all the OBGYN's gone

Critical Factors Contributing to the OB-GYN Shortage

Aging Physician Workforce

A significant portion of the current OB-GYN workforce is nearing retirement age, with almost half of all practicing U.S. physicians aged 55 and older. The American Medical Association highlights that 35 percent of these doctors will likely retire within the next five years. The trend toward earlier retirement and the decreasing number of years that older physicians are willing to continue working exacerbate the shortage.

Burnout and Administrative Burdens

OB-GYNs face high rates of burnout, driven by an increase in administrative responsibilities. These duties, which are not directly related to patient care, include extensive paperwork and compliance with numerous regulatory requirements. The burden of these tasks is compounded by the challenges of securing adequate reimbursement from health insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid, creating a perfect storm for professional exhaustion.

Legislative and Legal Challenges

The OB-GYN field is uniquely affected by legal and legislative pressures, including the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. This ruling has significant implications for reproductive healthcare and has deterred some new physicians from entering the OB-GYN field. Additionally, OB-GYNs face high malpractice insurance costs due to the high risk associated with their work, particularly in states with substantial litigation rates such as Florida, Illinois, and New York.

Strategic Solutions to Mitigate the OB-GYN Shortage

Enhancing Medical Education and Incentives

To counteract the dwindling number of OB-GYNs, medical schools and governmental bodies need to implement strategies that focus on attracting and retaining talent in this essential field. This can include offering scholarships, loan forgiveness programs, and increasing the number of residency positions available to OB-GYN students. Additionally, enhancing the exposure of medical students to OB-GYN practices through targeted rotations could increase interest in the specialty.

Addressing Burnout and Administrative Challenges

Hospitals and healthcare systems must prioritize reducing the administrative burden on OB-GYNs to improve job satisfaction and retain existing practitioners. Implementing more efficient electronic health record systems and providing support staff to handle paperwork can free OB-GYNs to focus more on patient care. Additionally, promoting work-life balance through flexible scheduling and part-time positions could also help retain experienced OB-GYNs in the workforce longer.

Policy Changes and Advocacy

Advocating for policy changes that protect and empower OB-GYNs is crucial. This includes lobbying for reasonable malpractice insurance rates and advocating for laws that support the medical decisions made by OB-GYNs. Policy efforts should also focus on maintaining access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, ensuring that OB-GYNs can provide a full spectrum of care without legal impediments.

The shortage of OB-GYNs in the United States is a pressing issue that requires immediate and sustained action. By addressing the root causes of this shortage and implementing strategic solutions aimed at education, retention, and legislative advocacy, it is possible to ensure that all individuals have access to essential obstetric and gynecologic care.

If you are struggling to fill your open OBGYN positions, please get in touch. Our industry-leading physician recruitment solution providers access to over 1.5 million healthcare providers.

Paul Olzak, MBA, CPRP

Joining PracticeMatch in 2021, Paul supports Client Sourcing's proactive recruiting model that generates a robust prospect pool, creates an effective and efficient recruiting experience and identifies key metrics to ensure optimal performance for the client. Paul has a commitment to learning, development and passion for building a team of recruiting professionals to leverage their national footprint which benefits its client organizations and their candidates. Prior to joining the PracticeMatch team, Paul served as Medical Staff Development Officer at University Hospitals, Lake Health Region in Cleveland, Ohio.

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