Outcomes of a Survey-Based Approach to Determine Factors Contributing to the Shortage of Occupational Medicine Physicians in the United States

J Public Health Manag Pract. 2021 May-Jun 01;27(Suppl 3):S200-S205. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000001315.

Abstract

Context: There is a long-standing shortage of formally trained Occupational & Environmental Medicine (OEM) physicians despite OEM practitioners experiencing high satisfaction and low burnout.

Objective: To explore the root causes of this shortage and suggest potential remedies.

Methods: Cross-sectional surveys were administered to medical students queried regarding OEM training, practicing OEM physicians queried regarding timing of specialty choice, and OEM Train-in-Place (TIP) program graduates queried regarding satisfaction with training.

Results: Of 247 medical student respondents, 70% had heard of OEM, 60% through one lecture. Of the 160 OEM physicians, 17% first became aware of OEM as medical students, and most would have chosen a different path had they heard sooner. Most TIP program trainees reported that they would not have undertaken specialty training without a TIP program (89%).

Conclusions: Strategies to introduce OEM earlier in medical education and TIP programs for mid-career physicians may help overcome persistent shortages of OEM specialists.