As enrollment in the Affordable Care Act reaches a record high this year, more Americans need doctors — but getting an appointment can be hard.
Nevada ranked 48th in the nation for the availability of primary care doctors, as cited in a July 2023 study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), with all 17 counties in the state facing doctor shortages.
Kenny Do is a second-year medical student at UNLV, born and raised in Las Vegas.
He wants to complete his residency in his hometown, but there’s no guarantee that will happen.
“Although we do have a lot of medical schools here in the state, we do not have enough residency positions,” Do told Fox News.
“So in the end, a lot of times, we go to school here, and we end up doing residency elsewhere. And as a result, a lot of these physicians stay where they do residency.”
In addition to facing a lack of available residency positions, many primary care doctors earn less than specialists.
“A lot of students finish med school with a lot of debt,” Do noted.
“Salary is a consideration for a lot of them, too … Primary care physicians are typically paid less than the average specialist, so that is maybe one factor [as to] why you see students being reluctant to choose primary care.”
Nevada is having a hard time not only recruiting doctors, but also retaining them.
“Most of our physicians are over 50, and many of them are approaching retirement age,” said University Medical Center CEO Mason Van Houweling in Las Vegas.
“So, you [have] physician burnout and then also the backlog of supply and demand.”
A shortage of primary care doctors has put a strain on patients and the medical community, Van Houweling told Fox News.
“Patients seek out care in the emergency rooms, which is kind of the last place you want to seek out primary care,” he noted.
“They miss out on preventative health and medications that they need.”
UMC is aiming to fill the primary care gap by having nurse practitioners and physician assistants care for patients.
Van Houweling and Do agree that increasing the number of residency positions and offering debt relief to medical students may encourage more of them to pursue a profession in primary care.