Objective: Graduate medical education (GME), through fellowship training, plays a critical role in preparing new rheumatologists for our workforce and is an essential component when addressing the gap of excess demand for adult rheumatology care. This study was undertaken to assess the demographic characteristics and employment trends of new entrants entering the rheumatology workforce and the impact this will have on the supply of rheumatologits over the next 15 years.
Methods: Primary and secondary data sources were used to develop an integrated workforce model. Factors specific to new graduates entering the workforce included available and filled fellowship positions, gender shifts, planned work schedules (part-time or full-time), practice settings (academic or non-academic, private practice), and number of international medical graduates (IMGs) anticipating US practice.
Results: In 2015, there were 113 adult rheumatology programs, with 431 of 468 available positions filled. Using the 215 actual positions available annually in fellowship programs as a starting point, after all factors were applied, the projected clinical full-time equivalent number entering the workforce each year was 107; this number was affected significantly by gender and generational trends. In addition, 17% of IMGs self-identified their plan to practice outside the US. Confounding predictions included a large proportion of current rheumatologists planning retirement with substantially reduced patient loads by 2030.
Conclusion: The current US adult rheumatology workforce is in jeopardy of accelerated decline at a time when demands on the workforce face tremendous growth. The current GME training structure cannot support the increased demand. Potential strategies to address this gap include innovative mechanisms for GME funding to increase fellowship training positions, incentives for pursuing rheumatology training (e.g., loan repayment programs), and novel means for recruitment of care to underserved areas of the US.
© 2018, American College of Rheumatology.