As a healthcare recruitment firm, we’ve recently seen a tremendous increase in psychiatrist searches. In fact, psychiatry is currently the third most recruited position in the country, falling just behind family medicine and internal medicine. Why? The answer is twofold.
Psychiatry is becoming progressively more important in society.
Becker’s Hospital Review states that one out of five American adults experience a mental illness every year. This statistic rings louder than ever before as popular culture—such as the recent Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”—sheds light on the realities of mental health. Such movements to destigmatize mental illness have helped to encourage those in need of psychiatric care to seek it. Plus, more people in general are prioritizing their mental health. A recent national survey found that 90 percent of people value mental health and physical health equally, and 93 percent of people said they’d intervene if they discovered someone close to them was contemplating suicide. Ultimately, the public is becoming more aware, more educated, and more accepting of mental illness.
While the population is growing, the psychiatry field is shrinking.
The April 2017 issue of Academic Psychiatry illustrates that the U.S. has seen about a 37 percent population increase in the past 20 years, while the psychiatry field has increased only by 12 percent. We are seeing the effects of this now as 55 percent of U.S. counties currently do not have psychiatrists and the national average wait for a psychiatrist appointment is 25 days, according to a report conducted by the National Council for Behavioral Health. The reason for the shortage of psychiatrists boils down to the fact that as more and more psychiatrists retire, less and less students are choosing psychiatry as a profession. Industry leaders speculate that the lack of interest in the field likely stems from lower wages due to minimal reimbursement from insurance companies. Psychiatry is compensated far less than procedure-based specialties, such as cardiology or general surgery. Considering medical school students are graduating with an average of $207,000 in student loans, it’s no surprise that they are choosing fields that will allow them to pay this massive debt off at a quicker rate.
Working Toward a Solution
It has become clear that sustainable changes aimed at filling psychiatry residency spots year-after-year can only occur if all stakeholders (federal and state governments, payers, providers, provider trade associations and advocates) take action within their respective spheres of influence in the design, funding, regulation, and delivery of mental health care. Each of the stakeholders have a role and must work together to make an impact. Servicing those suffering from mental health issues must be a top priority.