Types of Physicians in High Demand

by Eric Strauss

The old question asks, "Is there a doctor in the house?" But in the 21st century, the question might more accurately be, "Is there a family doctor in the house?" A 2012 survey conducted by health-care search and consulting firm Merritt Hawkins found that generalists like family physicians were the most in-demand, despite -- or perhaps because of -- specialists' higher average pay. Meanwhile, a research panel held in 2011 at the Association of Staff Physician Recruiters conference predicted a shortfall of 91,500 doctors by 2020, and said nearly half of those would be primary care doctors.

Family Physicians

The 2012 Merritt Hawkins recruitment survey found that family doctors were the most in-demand type for the seventh consecutive year. These primary care doctors are expected to continue to be highly sought-after, as well, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The combination of this additional insurance coverage, plus the aging Baby Boom population, will drive demand for general practitioners capable of treating the "whole patient" rather than just one aspect such as the heart or digestive system.


Internal medicine physicians ranked second in the Merritt Hawkins survey, marking the seventh straight year that family doctors and internists were the top two types requested of the recruiting firm. These doctors are a different type of generalist from family physicians. Although they may serve as a patient's primary care physician, they specialize in treating diseases that specifically affect adults rather than in general medicine.


A different type of doctor ranked third in the Merritt Hawkins survey: psychiatrists who treat patients' minds rather than their bodies. Unlike the generalists, the need for psychiatrists was relatively new, according to the firm -- these doctors ranked only 10th as of the 2008 survey. As with the family physicians, however, the demand for this particular kind of practitioner was at least partly driven by the lack of working doctors in the field.


The fourth-ranked need in the Merritt Hawkins survey was yet another type of general physician, the hospitalist. These doctors do not specialize in a particular part of the body, but instead focus on treating patients who require hospitalization. They may be internists or specialists, but rather than working out of a doctor's office or clinic, they are based in a hospital and thus able to care for patients throughout their stay.

About the Author

Eric Strauss spent 12 years as a newspaper copy editor, eventually serving as a deputy business editor at "The Star-Ledger" in New Jersey before transitioning into academic communications. His byline has appeared in several newspapers and websites. Strauss holds a B.A. in creative writing/professional writing and recently earned an M.A. in English literature.

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