In reviewing workforce numbers over a five-year period, (2008-12), Jim Stimpson, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Policy at the UNMC College of Public Health, found the number of adult cancer physicians increased by 24.7 percent, while the number of pediatric cancer physicians actually decreased by 1.2 percent during that time.
"Furthermore, the number of adult cancer physicians who specialize in specific types of cancer, such as colon and pancreatic cancer, is lagging as well," said Julie Vose, M.D., professor of oncology, UNMC College of Medicine, and a co-author of the study.
For a complete list of co-authors, see sidebar at right
The study results are alarming, Dr. Stimpson said, as a recently released state health report determined that cancer has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in Nebraska.
Dr. Stimpson provided a number of suggestions on how Nebraska could address its oncologist shortage. These include:
- Increasing oncology recruitment efforts.
- Identifying nurse practitioners and physician assistants in those parts of the state without a practicing oncologist who could provide routine supportive care.
- Involving primary care physicians who could provide care and monitor cancer survivors.
- Effective use of information technology such as electronic medical records and telehealth services.
- Providing supportive care to cancer patients and family members through medical homes, survivor clinics and hospice care.
"With the expected increased demand for cancer care services through improved insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act and the number of cases expected to increase over time, we think it is important to consider some of the policy options outlined to address the workforce issues, especially for children in the state," Dr. Stimpson said.
This report is one of six in a series of workforce studies released by the Center for Health Care Policy. Other reports have included studies on dentistry, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
Data for the study was provided by the Health Professions Tracking Service at UNMC, which surveys health professionals across the state. Those who self-reported their primary specialty or practice specialty as oncology, hematology, hematology/oncology, radiation oncology, pediatric hematology/oncology, surgical oncology, gynecological oncology or musculoskeletal oncology were included in the study.