From the September 2011 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
According to the ASRT, 2010 saw approximately 15,948 students entering radiography programs, 1,462 starting radiation therapy programs and 1,534 students in nuclear medicine technology. Enrollment fell from 2009, dropping from 4.8 percent in radiography to 2.9 percent in radiation therapy programs. Nuclear medicine technology training is the outlier here; there, enrollment increased 5.3 percent between 2009 and 2010.
In general, attrition rates in these programs are low, the ASRT said; radiography had the highest attrition rate, with a mean of 23.3 percent, compared to 18.3 percent for radiation therapy and 12.9 percent for nuclear medicine technology.
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Physicians are becoming a scarce commodity around the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 24 percent increase in demand for physician services by 2014. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Center for Workforce Studies predicts a shortage of about 63,000 doctors by 2015. This shortage, notes AAMC, will continue to rise, hitting 91,500 by 2020 and 130,600 by 2025.
Back in 2006, the AAMC anticipated this growing need and recommended that its member schools orchestrate a 30 percent increase in medical school enrollment by 2015.
Across the country, medical schools have boosted enrollment by 13.2 percent since 2002 and foresee a 27.6 percent increase by 2015 to an estimated 21,041 students, notes the AAMC. Seven new medical schools are in the pipeline, says the AAMC, which should help. But it might take until 2017 to reach that 30 percent increase in med school grads, according to the AAMC.
Of course, these statistics encompass all manner of physicians, whereas the shortage is most acute for general practitioners. But many students see greater financial rewards by becoming specialists: for instance, dermatologists earn more than twice as much as general practitioners, as an aggregate, according to the Medical Group Management Association 2011 physician compensation survey.
As a result, medical schools are trying to encourage students to become general practitioners. An AAMC survey indicates that three-quarters of respondents are instituting programs and policies to encourage interest in primary care.
Duke University Medical School, for example, has instituted a Primary Care Leadership Track that offers students a $10,000 scholarship in return for a commitment to general practice. The four-year curriculum requires coursework and on-the-ground experiences in epidemiology and leadership training, community engagement and the patient-centered medical home.