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Job listings abound for primary care physicians

An aging population heightens demand for health care services as more doctors plan to retire.

By — Posted Feb. 24, 2011

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Primary care doctors scrolling through online job ads may find themselves spoiled for choice.

"We're seeing demand increase across the board for all medical specialties, but the biggest increase is in primary care," said Jeff Freeman, president of the CompHealth Perm division of CHG Healthcare Services in Salt Lake City.

National data reflect this observation. Job ads jumped in January, particularly for health care practitioners and technicians, according to a monthly report issued Jan. 31 by the Conference Board. Of the 10 largest occupational groups inside and outside of health care tracked by the board's Help Wanted OnLine Data Series, health care practitioners and technicians grew the most, with an additional 78,500 job listings for a total of 604,400.

The growth was driven by demand for registered nurses as well as family and general practice physicians. About 19,900 family and general practice physician jobs were listed online in December 2010, and this expanded to 26,400 in January. In January 2010, only 18,900 of these jobs were posted.

"It's not just a one-month thing," said June Shelp, the Conference Board's vice president of strategic initiatives and centers. "There's been a fairly steady increase."

People who work on physician recruiting say the increased demand for primary care physicians is the result of several trends. More hospitals are looking to employ physicians directly as a way to deal with some of the uncertainty about health system reform. An aging population has increased the demand for health care, and a growing number of physicians are retiring.

"An aging population is both increasing the demand and decreasing the supply," Freeman said.

This may be driving job creation throughout the health care industry. A survey released Jan. 17 by CareerBuilder, an online job search and recruitment company, predicted job growth for all occupations in the health care industry, including physicians. About 240 health care employers were queried between Nov. 15 and Dec. 2, 2010, about their hiring plans for 2011. About 22% said they intended to increase the number of full-time permanent employees, and 12% expected to add part-time positions.

Although these reports indicate that health care hiring most likely will be strong in 2011, the number of jobs created in the industry in January was soft. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Feb. 4 in its monthly jobs report that hospitals created 700 jobs in January. About 2,100 positions were added to physician offices.

The data are preliminary and subject to revision, but 7,000 positions were created in hospitals in December 2010. An additional 7,400 were added in this setting in November 2010. About 5,800 jobs were created in physician offices in December 2010, but 3,300 were lost in November 2010.

The BLS does not break these numbers down by job type.

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