Addressing the Physician Shortage: A National and Texas-Specific Perspective

On a National Level

The United States is facing a daunting challenge that could significantly impact healthcare delivery: a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, as reported by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). This shortage spans both primary and specialty care, with estimates of 17,800 to 48,000 in primary care and 21,000 to 77,100 in non-primary care specialties. The causes are multifaceted, including an aging population, increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, and a wave of retirements among practicing physicians, with 2 in 5 active physicians expected to retire in the next eight years. The effects are already visible, with longer wait times for patients, increased workload for existing doctors, and strained healthcare systems, particularly in underserved and rural areas.

On a Texas Level

Texas mirrors the national trend but presents unique challenges. With a rapidly growing population, particularly in urban centers and rural areas alike, the demand for medical services continues to escalate. However, this surge in demand is not met with a proportional increase in the number of practicing physicians. According to the Texas Medical Association, the state has 204.6 physicians per 100,000 people, while the national average is closer to 245.5 per 100,000.

Texas is experiencing critical shortages across all primary care fields. Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services reveals that while 49.4% of Texas medical school graduates remain in the state for their GME, a significant portion still leaves, exacerbating local shortages. Moreover, only 58.9% of those who complete their GME in Texas stay to practice, indicating a retention challenge that directly impacts the physician supply in the state.

Navigating Solutions: Where Do We Stand?

To combat these shortages, various strategies are being employed nationally and within Texas. Hospitals and clinics are increasingly relying on incentives such as loan forgiveness programs, competitive salaries, and flexible working conditions to attract and retain medical professionals. Legislative efforts have also been significant. At the end of 2020, Congress added 1,000 new Medicare-supported graduate medical education (GME) positions to help alleviate the shortage, particularly in underserved areas. In Texas, the need for additional residency slots is dire, with required increases across multiple specialties including psychiatry, family medicine, and general internal medicine to keep pace with demand.

Advanced practice providers (APPs), such as Nurse practitioners and Physician Assistants, will play a vital role in alleviating the strain caused by the physician shortage. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, APPs comprise 52.5% of Primary Care Providers. Over the period from 2016 to 2021, while the growth rate of physicians in the United States was -0.21%, Nurse Practitioners (NPs) saw an impressive increase of 56.2%, and Physician Assistants (PAs) experienced a growth rate of 27.8%.

With advanced training and expertise in providing primary and specialized healthcare services, APPs are uniquely positioned to fill the gaps in patient care delivery. Through their ability to diagnose, treat, prescribe medication, and offer preventive care, advanced practice providers extend the reach of healthcare to underserved populations and communities facing limited access to physicians. In rural areas where physician shortages are most acute, APPs often serve as primary care providers, offering comprehensive medical services to residents who might otherwise struggle to access timely healthcare.


The outlook on the physician shortage is a mixed bag. While legislative and institutional efforts provide some hope, the growing demand continues to outpace the supply of new physicians. Without substantial increases in the capacity of medical education and training, particularly postgraduate training, the shortage is likely to worsen. Texas needs substantial increases in GME slots—ranging from 13 additional slots per year for obstetrics and gynecology to 61 for family medicine and general internal medicine—to meet projected healthcare needs by 2032.

Frontera Search Partners

In response to this critical issue, Frontera Search Partners, a healthcare staffing firm, is at the forefront of addressing clinical staffing shortages across the nation. With over 50 years of combined experience, Frontera excels at connecting healthcare facilities with top talent across various specialties, including physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, and allied health professionals. Their customer-focused approach ensures that each client receives personalized solutions tailored to meet their specific needs and find the ‘right fit’ for both providers and healthcare facilities. By offering strategic staffing solutions and a collaborative approach, Frontera Search Partners not only addresses the immediate challenges posed by the physician shortage but also contributes to a more sustainable healthcare system. If your hospital or clinic is seeking healthcare professionals, reach out to Jillian Renken at

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Addressing the Physician Shortage: A National and Texas-Specific Perspective