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November 16 2018

Resident physicians help address the growing need for local family medicine providers

By Susanne Krasovich, MD

You may have heard the term resident physician and wondered what it really meant. A resident is a doctor who has graduated from medical school and is working in a medical setting while obtaining advanced education and training.

Eight or more years of university education and hands-on classes prepare resident physicians to provide direct medical care to patients. Their next step after earning a medical degree is to apply for a residency associated with a teaching hospital. Each year, resident physicians arrive at the hospitals associated with their residency programs ready to treat patients and become immersed in their chosen specialties.

The additional clinical and educational aspects of a resident physician’s training are overseen by faculty physicians of the same specialty. The length of residency varies by specialty. Most family medicine providers serve a three-year residency, while a surgical residency may be five to seven years.

The State of Wisconsin Medical Examining Board oversees the licensure of physicians in Wisconsin. The state requires medical school graduates to be accepted into and complete a residency program before they can obtain an unrestricted medical license in the state or apply for licensure in other states.

More physicians needed

Educating and training physicians is critically important, now and in the future. Multiple studies indicate an increasing shortage of physicians.

As people age and their need for health care services increases, the demand for physician services rises. Physicians in many communities are also aging, and they are retiring in greater numbers than in the past.

A report issued earlier this year by the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce includes this data:

  • The average age of primary care physicians in Wisconsin is 50.

  • By 2035, Wisconsin is expected to experience a primary care physician shortage of 14 percent, meaning there will be 745 fewer primary care physicians than are needed.

  • Demand for physician services in the Waukesha area is likely to grow by 25 percent by 2035.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges:

  • A total of 367 physicians graduated from Wisconsin’s two medical colleges in 2016-17. 

  • About half of all Wisconsin physicians remained in the state after completing their residencies here between 2007 and 2016.

Focus on family medicine

Primary care physicians can be categorized different ways. A family medicine physician is a primary care doctor who specializes in care for the whole family – children and adults. An internal medicine physician specializes in care for adults, and a pediatrician provides care for children.

Family medicine physicians get to know their patients, understand all of their patients’ medical needs, and ensure that each patient receives high-quality care for everything from a sore throat to depression or diabetes. Some family medicine physicians are also trained in obstetrics.

According to the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, more patients are seen by family physicians than any other specialty. Family physicians can diagnose and treat 85 percent of all ailments and they help coordinate additional care when it is needed.

The academy lists 16 family residency programs in Wisconsin. While all state residency programs have the same regulatory requirements, some may offer additional opportunities. As one example, the Waukesha Family Medicine Residency at ProHealth Care is unique in that:

  • Resident physicians have the opportunity to obtain a fourth year of education, allowing them to earn a master’s degree in public health or business administration or a surgical obstetrical fellowship so they may perform cesarean sections.

  • Resident physicians provide 150 hours of volunteer care each year at St. Joseph’s Medical Clinic, a not-for-profit organization that serves uninsured and underinsured people, providing medical services, health education and referrals to community resources.

People can choose a resident physician as their primary care provider, just like any other primary care physician.

It’s important to keep in mind that all doctors are lifelong learners. Every physician must maintain continuing education requirements and continue to learn and treat patients in order to retain their licensure.

Check with your health care organization to learn more about the services offered by resident physicians in your community and the options they may offer for convenient access to medical care.

Susanne Krasovich, MD, is medical director of the Waukesha Family Medicine Residency at ProHealth Care and is a ProHealth Medical Group family medicine physician who also provides obstetric care. ProHealth Medical Group’s resident physicians see patients in Waukesha at 210 NW Barstow St. Call 262-548-6903 for more information and to make an appointment.

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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.