Almost every day you can read an article or a report that comments about the upcoming and sometimes already present shortage of physicians in this country. These reports are either focused on certain geographical areas or on specialties.

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology just reported in their September 2009 issue that cardiology is going to face decades of workforce shortages not only due to the decreased number of cardiologists but also due to patient aging, overweight and diabetic population increases. Currently there is a lack of 3,0000 cardiologists who could easily fill private-practice and academic positions.

The report mentions that this shortage is not a pipeline problem since many young physicians apply for the fellowships required to enter the specialty and there are 50% more applicants than spots available. The problem is that the federal government cut the funds for cardiology fellowships in the early 90’s under the assumption that managed care would reduce demand by making the family practitioner the main gatekeeper for people with heart disease.

So what does this mean for cardiologists?

  1. There will be enough work for everyone.
    Even though they still need to build a strong relationship with referring colleagues, once they built the trust and connection, the practice should stay very busy.
  2. Define what success means to each individual.
    Since the demand for cardiology services will be so high in the future, they probably could work 24-7 and still have more work that needs to get done. Therefore cardiologist want to be in control of their work day and work life by defining what a successful practice / career looks like to them and where they need to strengthen their boundaries.
  3. Define work-life balance.
    One of the biggest complaints of many physicians is the lack of work-life balance. Going hand in hand with the definition of success, I also encourage cardiologists to define what work-life balance means to them so that they won’t fall into the trap of overwork, burnout, and dissatisfaction and make sure they include time for family, fun, hobby and personal growth.

What does the cardiologist shortage mean for healthcare organization?

  1. War for talent becomes fiercer.
    The shorter the supply of cardiologists (or any other physician specialty), the fiercer is the effort to find the best talents for the organization. I encourage healthcare organizations to develop a culture and reputation that easily attracts the best physicians to their organization. They want to become known as the organization that values physicians, engages them in the growth process and provides a harmonic environment for their entire staff.
  2. Provide programs for their growth and leadership.
    Valuing physicians and engaging them in the organization includes leadership and professional development programs that provide the foundation for the physicians’ success and well-being.
    For further information about such a program visit