Many Cities Could Suffer an Ob-Gyn Shortage in Just 2 Years

A new study points to a growing crisis: In cities around the country, there will be a shortage of 8,800 Ob-Gyns by 2020, and by 2050, that number could grow to 22,000. 
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Finding an obstetrician and/or gynecologist who you trust for annual exams, everyday concerns, not to mention to help guide you through trying to conceive, pregnancy. And bringing your baby into the world is often a challenge in and of itself. Now, women may have to contend with a related hurdle: By 2020, there will be a shortage of up to 8,800 Ob-Gyns, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And by 2050, the shortage may grow to 22,000. Doximity, the social media network for U.S. health care professionals, took a look at this mounting issue in a new study published on Wednesday, June 27 and shed light on the specific factors that are playing into the shortage, as well as which cities will be most affected.

From their data, here are the top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest likelihood of an Ob-Gyn shortage:1. Las Vegas, NV2. Los Angeles, CA3. Miami, FL4. Orlando, FL5. Riverside, CA6. Detroit, MI7. St. Louis, MO8. Salt Lake City, UT9. Sacramento, CA10. Tampa, FL

One of the main causes of the doctor shortage is that such a high percentage of Ob-Gyns are getting older and close to retirement. Nationally, 36% of the Ob-Gyn population are over 55, notes the study. Most retire at 59, which is considered earlier than other docs and is likely due to the fact that they're just under emergency room doctors in how quickly they experience burnout. No surprise, considering the stress of delivering babies and high risk of being targeted for malpractice. (Obstetricians pay the second highest liability-insurance premiums of any medical specialty—only neurosurgeons pay more—and are each sued an average of three times during their careers.) 

The aging and retirement issue wouldn't be so much of a problem if there were more young doctors working in the field, the researchers note. But only 16% of all U.S. Ob-Gyns are 40 years of age or younger. 

And the stress issue seems to be worse in certain areas, given the doctors' workload. For instance, in St. Louis, Missouri, where there are 247 births per doctor annually, Ob-Gyns will be more likely to retire early due to burnout than places like Ann Arbor, Michigan, where there are 33 births per doctor annually. The type of insurance that patients have plays into the problem as well. The study found that regions with higher workloads "also tended have higher numbers of women of child-bearing age covered by Medicaid or uninsured relative to the privately insured population."

Yes, this all sounds like bleak news for women all over the country, but researchers hope the findings raise awareness and spur discourse that could turn the ship around.

Peter Alperin, MD, VP and GM of Connectivity Solutions at Doximity encourages people to have conversations within their communities and with their doctors, representatives/policymakers, and insurance companies about the importance of creating policies that encourage Ob-Gyns to want to move to and work in their regions. As he tells Parents.com, "These aren't simple problems and don't necessarily have simple solutions, but ultimately, we are all patients at some point, and we all have a stake in the solution."

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