Doctor shortage causes hospitals to use freelance workers

Hospitals are using freelance doctors to combat a shortage of thousands in the United States.

The number of pay-per-hour doctors has doubled since 2002 to more than 48,000 practicing physicians. 

They are being brought on to make up for the shortage of people available for full-time positions.

There was close to a 10,000 physician shortage in 2015 – and experts predict that number will rocket to 100,000 by 2030.

As of 2016, 94 percent of health care facilities had turned to hiring contract doctors to help survive the shortage.

In 2015, there was a shortage of close to 10,000 physicians across the US. Hospitals are hiring freelance doctors to help make up for the shortage. Freelancing in the medical field is growing due to better benefits and the ability to make your own schedule (file photo) 

Locum tenens, Latin for ‘to hold a place’, is the practice where physicians go under a short-term contract with a facility.

The number of freelance physicians has nearly doubled since 2002, according to a survey from Staff Care.

Certain perks such as getting paid more hourly, not having to wait for insurance reimbursement to get paid and making their own hours has led more physicians to do freelance work instead of a long-term contract.

Hospitals are now relying on locum tenens agencies to help provide physicians during this shortage. 

A decade ago, these temporary physicians were not a popular field at a hospital. 

But now, 94 percent of health care facilities work with freelance doctors.

A potential reason for this increase is that more qualified physicians are willing to go down the locum tenens tract instead of getting a full-time position at a hospital. 

Locum tenens agencies will screen the doctors to help find one that fits the qualifications the hospital needs to fill the short-term position. 

The doctor shortage is estimated to grow close to 100,000 by 2030, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Hefty student loans to pay for medical school are a leading cause of the shortage across the US.  

The potential for high levels of debt influences young professionals who are deciding what career path to take when they are going through college.

A 2015 study in AMA Journal of Ethics looked at the affordability of a medical education across the country. 

It found that 73 percent of medical students graduate with debt and it is on average $180,000 or more.

The Loan Forgiveness Program was created in 2007 to help people who were struggling to pay all of their debt back and to encourage the continuing of education in specific professions. 

Students were allowed to stop making payments towards their debt once they had already made 120 of them if they were working for public or non-profit institutions.

Since most health care facilities are public, this helped medical students afford their career path.  

But the Trump administration is talking about getting rid of the program in 2018 due to backlash.  

Critics have said the program bails out students that will eventually have high-paying jobs.