By 2034, the United States could see an estimated shortage of up to 124,000 physicians, with shortfalls in both primary and specialty care. 

Shortage Deficits in Primary and Specialty Care:

  • Primary Care (family medicine, general pediatrics, geriatric medicine): between 17,800 and 48,000 physicians.
  • Nonprimary Care Specialties: between 21,000 and 77,100 physicians.
  • Surgical Specialties (general surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, orthopedic surgery): between 15,800 – 30,2000 physicians.
  • Medical Specialties (cardiology, oncology, infectious diseases, pulmonology): between 3,800 and 13,400 physicians.
  • Other Specialties (anesthesiology, neurology, emergency medicine): between 10,300 and 36,600 physicians.

Primary Factors of the Physician Shortage:

In the next ten years, over 40% of physicians will be 65 or older. A large number of physicians are reaching retirement age. At the same time, fewer residents are entering the field. This combination will lead to a growing shortage of physicians.

The steady increase of physicians experiencing burnout can lead to earlier retirement. Before COVID- 19 40% of physicians were experiencing burnout at least once a week. Today, more than half of physicians are experiencing burnout. Moreover, we are seeing physicians retire at an earlier rate, with 12% retiring before the age of 60 and nearly 30% retiring between the ages of 60-65.

The National Resident Matching Program 2023 experienced a record number of residency applicants, with 48,156 individuals registered - an increase of 481 applicants compared to the previous year. The gain in applications was primarily due to a notable upswing of 707 non-U.S. citizen IMG applicants and an additional 153 U.S. Osteopathic (DO) seniors compared to the previous year. While the number of DO applicants increased, there was a surprising decline in the enrollment of U.S. MD seniors participating in the Match, with a decrease of 236 registered applicants compared to the previous year. Of all positions offered, 37,690 were filled, resulting in a fulfillment rate of 93.3%. This left 2,685 positions unfilled, an increase of 18.7% over last year. The field of Emergency Medicine experienced a substantial downturn in applicant interest, evidenced by 554 positions remaining unfilled— resulting in an increase of 335 positions compared to the previous year.

The growing and aging population of the United States is fueling the demand for physicians, especially in specialized care. At present, individuals aged 65 and older represent 34% of the total demand for physicians. Furthermore, this percentage is projected to grow to 42% by 2034.

Physicians in Demand

Emergency Medicine

  • Emergency medicine employment is projected to increase by 3% from 2021-2031.
  • Emergency medicine residency programs saw a significant decrease in new residents, with 555 unmatched positions. This number of unfilled residency positions increased by 253% (336 people) from 2022 to 2023.
  • In a 2023 survey, 42% of emergency medicine physicians shared that they were burned out.



Primary Care (family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, combined internal medicine/pediatrics (med/peds)

  • Primary care physicians have predicted a shortage of between 21,400 and 55,200 by 2033.
  • In 2022, 51% of primary care physicians reported being burned out.
  • 49% of primary care physicians are 55 and older.
  • 35% of family medicine applicants did not match into a residency program.
  • 32% of medicine-pediatrics applicants did not match into a residency program.
  • 89% of pediatrics applicants did not match into a residency program.


  • The number of psychiatrists is predicted to decrease by 20% by 2030. At the same time, the demand for their services is projected to increase by 3%. This will result in a shortage of over 12,000 psychiatrists.
  • 61% of Psychiatrists are 55 and older.
  • 33% of Psychiatrists are experiencing burnout.
  • 4% of applicants did not match into a psychiatry residency program.
Benefits of Locum Tenens Physicians and Advanced Practitioners:

Locum tenens can play a vital role in helping to bridge gaps in coverage due to the growing physician and advanced practitioner shortages. A few of their key benefits include: 

Filling Staffing Shortages: Locum tenens providers fill in vacancies for healthcare employers facing staffing shortages and increased patient volumes. Locum tenens providers can ensure that the hospital or medical facility maintains adequate staffing levels, preventing disruptions in patient care. 
Preventing Physician Burnout: Locum tenens can provide temporary relief for permanent providers experiencing burnout. Locum tenens physicians and advanced practitioners play a crucial role in addressing weekend and night call coverage challenges by seamlessly bridging scheduling gaps and assisting with workload distribution. By enhancing workplace flexibility and accommodating the preferred work schedules of employed staff, locums not only proactively prevent burnout but also foster higher retention rates.
Continuity of Patient Care: Locum tenens aid in ensuring there is a continuity of patient care even during times of unexpected or significant increases in patient volumes. In addition, locum physicians can help patients experience fewer disruptions in their treatment plans, leading to higher patient satisfaction.
Increase Revenue: With adequate staffing levels and continuous patient care from locum tenens physicians, healthcare facilities also see an increase in revenue. Locums can expand high-value procedures and boost patient services and capacity, resulting in higher revenue streams.

By 2034, it is estimated the United States could see a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians. Locum tenens offer valuable support with their ability to swiftly adapt, deliver high-quality care, and improve the overall well-being of healthcare professionals. Locums play a crucial role in ensuring the long-term viability and success of the healthcare workforce.

If you are in need of quality locum tenens staffing support, please complete the short form below.