Child and adolescent psychiatry workforce: a critical shortage and national challenge

Acad Psychiatry. Winter 2003;27(4):277-82. doi: 10.1176/appi.ap.27.4.277.


Despite the decades-long projection of an increasing utilization of child and adolescent psychiatry services and an undersupply of child and adolescent psychiatrists, the actual growth and supply of child and adolescent psychiatrists have been very slow. Inadequate support in academic institutions, decreasing graduate medical education (GME) funding, decreasing clinical revenues in the managed care environment, and a devalued image of the profession have made academic child and adolescent psychiatry programs struggle for recruitment of both residents and faculty, although child and adolescent psychiatry has made impressive progress in its scientific knowledge base through research, especially in neuroscience and developmental science. While millions of young people suffer from severe mental illnesses, there are only about 6,300 child and adolescent psychiatrists practicing in the United States. There is also a severe maldistribution of child and adolescent psychiatrists, especially in rural and poor, urban areas where access is significantly reduced. By any method of workforce analysis, it is evident that there will continue to be a shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists well into the future. Medical/psychiatric educators have a mission to encourage medical students and general psychiatry residents to enter child and adolescent psychiatry and provide crucial mental health care and health care advocacy for our country's youngest and most vulnerable citizens. This article stems from the work of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Task Force on Work Force Needs, which led to its 10-year recruitment initiative.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Psychiatry* / education
  • Child
  • Child Psychiatry* / education
  • Health Workforce / trends
  • Humans
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Mental Health Services
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Personnel Selection
  • United States