Will doctor shortage continue for hospices?

More funds needed to support specialty

A report by a task force appointed by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) to assess the current and future need and availability of hospice and palliative medicine (HPM) physicians shows that an acute shortage exists and current programs do not have the capacity to fill projected needs.1

About 4,400 physicians are HPM physicians, as defined by board certification or membership in the AAHPM. Most practice HPM part time, leading to an estimated physician workforce level from 1,700 full-time equivalents (FTEs) to 3,300 FTEs. An estimated 4,487 hospice and 10,810 palliative care physician FTEs are needed to staff the current number of hospice- and hospital-based palliative care programs at appropriate levels. The estimated gap between the current supply and the hypothetical demand to reach mature physician staffing levels is thus 2,787 FTEs to 7,510 FTEs, which is equivalent to 6,000 to 18,000 individual physicians, depending on what proportion of time each physician devotes to HPM practice.

The authors conclude that changes in graduate medical education funding and structures are needed to foster the capacity to train sufficient numbers of HPM physicians.


1. Friedman L, Alderman J, Bernacki R, et al. Estimate of current hospice and palliative medicine physician workforce shortage. J Pain Symptom Manage 2010;40:899-911.