Rural areas already suffer from critical shortage, but these major cities are next.
While the scope of reproductive health services remains under fire by Republican lawmakers, the number of professionals in the obstetrics and gynecology field is on the verge of falling rapidly as an aging generation of doctors looks toward retirement. A recent study by Doximity (via Daily Beast) shows that the average age of practicing OB-GYNs in U.S. cities is 51 years old. Many of the older generation are expected to cease their practices at age 59.
With so many of the professionals nearing retirement, the field is dependent on younger generations of doctors that just aren’t there. The result? A field that’s already notorious for overburdening its practitioners will see workloads rise to unmanageable levels for the remaining doctors.
The immense workload put on OB-GYNs likely serves as a reason young residents and students choose to focus in other areas that allow a greater financial reward for less strenuous responsibility.
It’s estimated in the study that the cities likely to be hit hardest by the wholesale retirements are Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, Memphis, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Riverside, California, and Buffalo, New York. However, many rural areas lack any OB-GYN professionals nearby, forcing women to either endure burdensome travel or forgo treatment altogether.
Public policy might also be responsible for the paucity of younger doctors in this field. Recently, the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported that a Republican bill forbidding UW-Madison from teaching how to perform abortions would worsen the state’s shortage of OB-GYNs. The article cites that, according to the American Medical Society, 20 of the state’s 72 counties aren’t home to a single OB-GYN. If the bill becomes law, the shortage would likely worsen.
With the crisis looming, special consideration must be made to both industry factors and social policy that will cause an imminent situation to worsen. The country has the opportunity to plan ahead for the en masse retirement of baby boomer doctors, but whether or not it acts on the information available is far less certain.