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Addressing the Primary Care Physician Shortage

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in 2021 there was a significant shortage of physicians across multiple specialties. However, the specialty with the greatest gap in supply and demand is primary care. Before 2034, the number of physicians in primary care is expected to face a shortage of 17,800 to 48,000 doctors.

However, Dr. Skorton, AAMC President and CEO, points out how these numbers do not account for the Coronavirus pandemic, after which the U.S. health system’s difficulties were severely worsened. These accounts reveal how the gap in access to healthcare was highlighted by the pandemic (e.g., dissimilarity in medical care for the uninsured vs. insured).

Patients aged 65 or older will make up 42% of physician demand by 2034, which is up from 34% in 2019. The rising demand for physicians can be attributed to the expansion and aging of the population. The potential lack of physicians can also be attributed to the rising phenomenon of “clinician burnout,” which is likely resulting in earlier retirement and/or a decrease in the hours of medical professionals.

According to Boyle, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), which includes nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs), are well-positioned to provide healthcare where needed as there is a greater supply than demand for these providers (i.e., a surplus). As such, drawing from the aforementioned study and the director of workforce studies at the AAMC, Michael Dill, the physician shortage may be further mitigated by APRNs and PAs to an extent.

Jagraj Atwal is a rising junior at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies healthcare management and policy. During a brief period in the summer of 2022, he will be participating in the sophomore leadership summit at DaVita Kidney Care.


AAMC. “AAMC Report Reinforces Mounting Physician Shortage.” AAMC, Association of American Medical Colleges, 11 June 2021,

Boyle, Patrick. “Aging Patients and Doctors Drive Nation's Physician Shortage.” AAMC, Association of American Medical Colleges, 11 June 2021,

Quan, Kathy. “NP vs APRN - What's the Difference?” NursingCE, Assessment Technologies Institute, LLC, 18 Dec. 2020,,more%20specialized%20role%20of%20APRNs.


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