Are We Facing an OB-GYN shortage?

A woman’s relationship with her OB-GYN is an intimate one — after all, that doctor has seen you in stirrups. And as so many people with vaginas will tell you, once you find an OB-GYN you love (or even just makes the experience more tolerable), you hold on for dear life and never let go. But what happens when they retire?

Doximity, a social network for physicians and advanced practice clinicians, released a report recently that many OB-GYNs are nearing retirement age. With an inadequate number of younger OB-GYNs practicing, this could leave many women without the care they trust.

Doximity looked at what the risk for OB-GYN shortages are in each of the largest 50 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas. The top spots at risk for a shortage include the following:

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
  2. Orlando, Florida
  3. Los Angeles, California
  4. Miami, Florida
  5. Riverside, California
  6. Detroit, Michigan
  7. Memphis, Tennessee
  8. Salt Lake City, Utah
  9. St. Louis, Michigan
  10. Buffalo, New York

“Understanding potential OB-GYN shortages is a key starting point in addressing the problem, and our data shows that we have a growing risk in cities across the country,” said Dr. Nate Gross, cofounder of Doximity.

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Most OB-GYNs plan to retire at 59, and the average age of them is 51. Their age of retirement also depends on their location. The average age of OB-GYNs according to Doximity’s research ranged from 52.69 in Pittsburgh to 48.93 in Houston.

Think a new wave of young OB-GYNs is coming in to replace them? Not so, the research found. Only 14 percent of OB-GYNs in the U.S. are under 40. And 37 percent are over the age of 55. The areas with the lowest percentage of OB-GYNs who are 40 years old and younger are Las Vegas, Buffalo, Detroit, Orlando and St. Louis.

“The current workforce in obstetrics and gynecology is aging, retiring early and going part time at an increasing pace, while the number of patients seeking care is exploding due to health care reform and population statistics,” said Dr. Valerie Anne Jones, a retired OB-GYN and member of Doximity’s Medical Advisory Board. “Access to maternity care and women’s health services is vitally important, and we need to have infrastructure to support the numbers or these women will have no OB-GYN to turn to despite having insurance.”

Dr. Carolyn Thompson, a Nashville-based gynecologist who recently retired from her private practice, said the structure of American medicine is driving out physicians who love patient care. This is due to the burden of clerical responsibility as a result of electronic health records.

“This, coupled with decreasing reimbursements and increasing expenses have driven all physicians, not just OB-GYNs, to see more and more patients just to meet the bottom line,” Thompson said.

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Higher volume gives doctors less time with each patient, which can translate into poor management not to mention the toll it takes on the interpersonal relationship.

“As current and aspiring medical students consider their options for a career path, many will look to specialties with better hours and less time demand — just one way of mitigating the burden of being a doctor,” Thompson added.

So, if your OB-GYN is on the mature side, it might not hurt to check in with them on their plans to continue practicing and plan accordingly.

By Kristen Fischer


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