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More family practice physicians needed

By Staff | Aug 28, 2009

Health care reform has been on the front burner of discussion across the country, and for the past few weeks President Obama and members of Congress have been holding town hall-style meetings to bring the issue before citizens.

Some support change, others oppose it, and still others are taking a wait-and-see approach.

While the goal is to ensure every man, woman and child has access to affordable and quality health care, making sure they can get in to see a physician is, and will continue to be, a big challenge.

The number of general or family practice doctors is decreasing nationwide due to retirement and the fact fewer medical students are interested in that area of physician care. More gravitate to specialty care fields that offer lucrative pay and better work schedules.

It’s important to note that the University of North Dakota’s medical school has one of the highest percentages of graduating medical students entering family practice. That is good news, indeed, but that trend has to continue year after year to begin to address the shortages in this region.

While some steps have been taken to entice med students to go into family medicine by forgiving their student loans, a more concerted effort is needed to fill this critical area of care.

More and more nurse practitioners (NPs) are seeing patients. In rural areas, especially, NPs already help fill the void when there are few general practice physicians.

That’s one way to address those doctor shortages. However, with the prospect of 47 million more patients going into hospitals and clinics seeking care, it’s evident the greater emphasis is on family practice doctors.

And during the discussion about major health care reform, that’s one issue that should be given more consideration.

While the House has passed a resolution for health care reform the Senate has not, and that will likely be one of its first priorities when lawmakers return to Washington next month.

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