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In doctor’s offices all around the country, frustrated patients sit in waiting rooms for thirty minutes or more only to get rushed through a ten-minute visit with their doctor who is always behind schedule.

This is a way of life for many primary care physicians because the demand for them is growing faster than the supply.

“Hello, are you accepting new patients?”

“I’m sorry, not at this time.”

This is an all too familiar phone call for families across America.

It’s estimated that in the next decade there could be a shortage of up to 35,000 primary care physicians. And these doctors are a patient’s gateway to specialists; they’re the ultimate navigator through the health care system.

“You really do need a primary care doctor that is making sure you are at the right specialist,” said Dr. Morgan Goss of Dove Family Health in Huntsville.  “So you need that doorkeeper, you know, a primary care physician.”

And without a primary care doctor, proper medical attention can be hard to come by, even for a cancer patient like Kendra Currie.

“I would have to call down to the cancer center, and they would either have to call me in something, without even seeing me, or I’d drive an hour and fifteen minutes to see them,” Currie said.

And the decline in primary physicians starts in education. The number of medical students selecting careers in primary care has declined by over 40 percent in the past decade.

Many students sign up for careers in medicine to have meaningful relationships with patients. When they see the hustle and bustle of primary care, combined with overwhelming debt and the high salaries their peers will earn, it should be no surprise that students don’t choose primary care over a specialty.

“A lot of people are choosing not to go into primary care because maybe they can make another hundred thousand or so more,” Dr. Goss said.

But it’s more than the money.

Primary care physicians deal with low patient compliance, people who haven’t taken care of themselves for years asking for a quick fix.

And specialists see more instant satisfaction with patients because when focusing on just one problem, it’s easier to make a customer happy.

So what does this mean for you, the patient?

“No one really has a primary care doctor, they just go to urgent care as needed,” Dr. Goss said. “Because of that, people are missing diagnoses of high blood pressure, diabetes, for years. Diagnoses can be missed. And health can be compromised.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges has called for an additional 3,000 residency slots each year up to 2025. The cost of additional training for the next decade is estimated to be $10 billion.