More Cancer Doctors, Nurses Needed Nationally

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The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is working to stop a looming shortage of oncologists, cancer specialists and support staff.

“Clinicians tend to be in the urban areas and we have a pretty good share of them. It’s the rural areas that are having trouble attracting all members of the teams,” Dr. Stephen Grubbs with ASCO said. “I have practices where we have the medical oncologists in rural areas and the problem is getting nurses and advanced practice providers to help them.”

Recent studies find that 1 in 5 practicing oncologists is nearing retirement age, with only 14.5% of cancer physicians working as early-care oncologists.

Grubbs said that over the last ten years, oncologists have changed their approach - moving into team-based care. This takes advantage of having a team that includes nurse practitioners and highly-trained nurse oncologists.

Nationally, teams are redesigning the system to better serve patients which includes the use of hubs and telemedicine to help rural families.

ASCO is also trying to encourage more doctors who are of good health and good mind, who are of retirement age, to stick around.

“What leads to early retirement is what we see across the whole field of medicine and that’s the burn out issues we’re seeing,” Grubbs said. “If we can attack burnout, I think we may be able to slow down some of these retirees from saying ‘I’ve had enough of this.’”

The group is also working to get a more diverse work force.

“We have a number of programs that are up and active, trying to bring in more and more students that are from underrepresented populations to change the face of what our workforce looks like,” Grubbs said.

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