TAMPA — BayCare is launching a new residency program to train the next generation of pediatric specialists, a move spurred by a shortage of child specialists.
Florida has only 81 pediatricians for every 100,000 children, the 30th-lowest in the nation, according to data from the American Board of Pediatrics.
That’s below the national average of 89 and well below states like Massachusetts, which has 165 pediatricians per 100,000 children. The shortfall is reflected in the Tampa Bay region too, especially in Polk County, where there are just 46 pediatricians for the county’s 153,000 children.
Those stark numbers make the case for BayCare’s new residency program, which will be based at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. It is now accepting applications for its first-ever class of eight residents beginning in July. The three-year program will eventually swell to 24 residents. More than 90 medical students have already applied since applications opened Oct. 14.
The need for pediatricians and doctors in general is likely to worsen. An analysis of the U.S. health care labor market by health and benefits firm Mercer released in September predicts labor shortages of physicians in every state. It warns that by 2026 more than 20 percent of active physicians will be eligible for retirement. That includes 6,100 pediatricians.
BayCare already has partnerships with the University of South Florida and Florida State University for residency programs in family and sports medicine. But the pediatrics program and a new psychiatry residency are its first foray into running its own residency programs. The firm has received more than 700 applicants for the psychiatry residency.
“As we looked throughout the Tampa Bay area we saw certainly pediatrics is a need, psychiatry is a need,” said Dr. Andrew Fink, BayCare’s designated institution officer. “We think we can do it very well and we can train community physicians.”
The pediatrics program’s residents will be trained by faculty at St. Joseph’s, which has more than 100 pediatric specialists on staff with expertise in most pediatric subspecialties, like cardiology, gastroenterology and critical care, among others.
The hospital’s emergency trauma center is staffed by physicians trained in pediatric emergencies. It has neonatal, pediatric and pediatric cardiac intensive care units; a congenital cardiac program; and a clinic for medically fragile children, among other services.
The medical school graduates who are accepted as pediatric residents will go through four-week blocks of study working alongside specialists. They’ll also undergo classroom instruction on topics such as how social determinants like income and neighborhood affect health. Another block will involve traveling around the community in a mobile care clinic, Fink said.
Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines
Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Residents will be paid an annual salary of $54,400 in the first year, rising to $58,200 by their third year. Benefits include 25 days of vacation a year and medical insurance. The average yearly salary for a qualified pediatrician in Florida is around $150,000, according to careerexplorer.com.
BayCare applied to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to certify their new programs. The process includes a review of curriculum and a site visit, Fink said.
Developing and running the programs inevitably comes with an overhead, he said. Residents tend to overorder tests and procedures as they are learning. The hospital may be eligible to get reimbursed for some of the costs from the federal government.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg also runs a residency program for 36 medical school graduates. It graduated its first class in 2017. Typically, 60 percent of its residents go into subspecialty training and the rest go into general pediatrics, spokesman Roy Adams said.
American Board of Pediatrics data show that child specialists tend to favor living in bigger cities, leading to rural health care “deserts” that force families into long journeys to get their children treated. But studies show that specialists often choose to remain in the community where they completed their residency, so the programs can help address a community’s shortfall, Fink said.
“Our goal is to provide excellent training to these pediatricians and physicians, so when they leave the program, they’re in the community taking care of our patients.”