If you think it's difficult to get into the doctor's office lately, it could get worse. The nation, including South Dakota, is dealing with a shortage of primary care doctors and it's expected to worsen as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Chelsea Mann is learning about the medical help that domestic violence victims at Children's Inn may need. The ability to help others is one of the reasons why Mann wants to be a doctor.
"I'm interested in doing service. Family medicine is really conducive to being able to serve either in a local, free clinic or in a mission," Mann said.
Mann is in her fourth year at the USD Sanford School of Medicine. When she graduates and is done with her residency, she should easily find a job.
“This last year there were three jobs for every family medicine and internal medicine physician completing their training. That meant two out of three jobs went unfilled," Avera Director of Physician Recruitment Ann Burns said.
The shortage is expected to get worse. Because of the Affordable Care Act, about 30 million newly insured patients are going to need a primary care provider.
"At the same time about one-third of the practicing physicians in the U.S. are age 55 or older and nearing retirement," Burns said.
Local health officials, the State and the School of Medicine are addressing the shortages by offering financial incentives to medical students.
"We partner with the state of South Dakota and local communities to offer physicians who practice in rural communities financial assistance to help pay off their school loans," Burns said.
Another program expands the number of students accepted at the School of Medicine if they agree to spend nine months in clinical training in a rural community.
"Recruitment of primary care physicians to rural areas is more difficult," Burns said.
Another reason for the shortage is because more medical students are choosing to pursue specialties other than primary care. Mann feels the variety of family medicine will be a good fit for her.
"The fact that you can care for babies all the way up to elderly patients. The fact that you get to see patients in the clinic in the hospital. You get to deliver babies and perform procedures," Mann said.
Burns says the large population growth in Sioux Falls has also increased the local demand for primary care physicians.