PARK CITY, Utah — Utah is predicted to have a significant need for obstetrics-gynecologist (OB-GYN) providers in the near future. By 2030, only 66% of the population’s need is projected to be met. This shortage is compounded when considering that Utah has the fifth-highest fertility rate in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recognizing the future problem and the current problem of growing wait times for treatment, Park City Hospital is being proactive with the addition of multiple providers to the practice.
Although a shortage of OB-GYN specialties is seen as being a large problem in the near future, the medical industry as a whole has seen a reduction in personnel.
“I think one of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest reason, why we’re seeing a shortage of physicians, and in particular, OB-GYN, has a lot to do with this national trend called the Great Resignation,” said Dr. Wing Province, Chief Medical Officer at the Park City Hospital.
The Great Resignation is described as a period of changing employment or retirement trends, which is in direct response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Although the Great Resignation has had an effect on multiple industries, the medical industry as a whole has been hit hard by changing employment numbers. The Mayo Clinic conducted a survey of the stress experienced by medical professionals during the pandemic. In the study, 20,665 respondents at 124 institutions were surveyed. The result showed that 1 in 5 physicians and 2 in 5 nurses intended to leave their practice entirely, while 1 in 3 physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurses would be significantly cutting back working hours.
“The pandemic, particularly the peak of the pandemic, really forced a lot of professionals and especially physicians, and particularly OB-GYNs, to really think about what are their priorities and what makes them happy. A lot of physicians dealing with the pandemic looked at their careers and looked at where they were in life and said, ‘You know what, I think retirement is calling for me’, and so a lot of them stepped away from medicine, and as a result of those three forces … OB-GYN was one of those that was [hit] hardest,” said Dr. Province.
It’s not just the reduction in available providers causing a shortage for medical specialties but also the availability of more convenient ways to perform their practice. People are acclimated to Zoom or Microsoft Teams, among other video chatting options, and this is no different for doctors. Technological changes that occurred during the pandemic and lockdowns have added new ways for medical services to be provided, including Telehealth and locums.
According to Dr. Province, Telehealth became “really attractive for a lot of physicians and allowed them to evaluate where they lived and then move to somewhere where they really wanted to live where they could still practice medicine via telehealth capabilities.”
Locums, another popular option, allows a physician to sign a contract with a medical facility or hospital for a certain amount of time, normally shorter periods of three to six months, sometimes up to a year. Province explained the benefits of this allows physicians to bounce around locations where they’d like to live for a short amount of time without having to commit to a longterm contract. These contracts can also come with housing stipends and other bonuses.
Recognizing the growing need for healthcare providers, the Park City Hospital is being proactive in its efforts to both maintain, and expand, available medical services to the community. There have been recent additions of multiple permanent OB-GYN providers and recruitment of locum physicians. The idea is to not only provide patient care through scheduled appointments but also have OB-GYN specialists available at all times.
“We just hired Dr. Michael Chen, who’s a physician who’s had a home here and has visited here in Park City for several years but has decided to make this his primary home. He has a lot of leadership experience coming to us from Missouri, where he helped to build a lot of programs in the St. Louis area, and has decided to bring that experience and the skills here to Park City. He is now our department chair for both Park City Hospital and Heber Valley hospital’s OB-GYN programs,” said Dr. Province.
In addition to Dr. Chen, key new members of the team are Jenny Hewlett, a nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife, and Dr. Jeanne Falk, an OB-GYN, who also practices integrative medicine that looks at the totality of women’s health, including nutrition, emotional needs, and other concerns. The efforts that the hospital has made in being proactive in their staffing is a significant step in finding a solution to what is becoming a growing issue for women in Utah.
“Park City Hospital and Heber Valley hospitals are unique in that they are one of the only ones in the Wasatch back, and a lot of folks come to us from Evanston and then from Coalville, Kamas, Francis, and all the outlying communities,” said Dr. Province.
“Seeing the writing on the wall and seeing what those national trends were, we just felt like we had to get ahead of that and make sure that we’re providing those services since there’s not a lot of options for people in the Wasatch back.”
It doesn’t stop with the current staffing needs for the hospital; there are programs in the works that target children in the area to promote the study of medicine with a look toward future solutions to the projected staffing deficit.
“We have a lot of partnerships with the local schools, particularly at the high schools and the middle schools to expose children to the idea of practicing medicine. A lot of them just think that they can’t do it … We also offer a lot of programs to provide educational funding or assistance for individuals who are interested in health care. With nurses, techs, or technologists, as it relates to OB-GYN, we’re hoping to get out in front of this by talking to kids while they’re young,” said Dr. Province.