Publications

California’s Primary Care Workforce: Current Supply, Characteristics, and Pipeline of Trainees

Author(s): 
Date: 
Feb. 16, 2017

Is California prepared to meet growing demand for primary care?

This report is the first in a series of three Healthforce Center at UCSF reports that will provide information to help policymakers, consumers and leaders of health care delivery organizations and educational institutions understand California’s primary care workforce needs. Collectively, these reports will enable stakeholders to assess the adequacy of the current primary care workforce, anticipate future gaps in the primary care workforce and identify effective policies for addressing these needs.

This report presents the most current information on the supply of medical doctors (MDs), doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs), nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) who provide primary care in California. It is the first report in many years to bring together information on primary care physicians, NPs and PAs.

Previously identified deficits in California’s primary care workforce persist and will be exacerbated in the coming decade because large percentages of MDs and NPs are reaching retirement age. 

Forthcoming reports in this series will forecast the future supply and demand for primary care clinicians and assess primary care workforce development initiatives in other states. Collectively, these publications will enable stakeholders to assess the adequacy of the current primary care workforce, anticipate future gaps in the primary care workforce, and identify effective policies for addressing these needs.

Key Points:

  • Most regions of California have shortages of primary care physicians as measured by a national benchmark
  • The numbers of NPs and PAs in California are growing more rapidly than the numbers of physicians, but physicians still constitute the majority of primary care clinicians
  • Latinos and African Americans are underrepresented among California’s primary care clinicians.
  • NPs and PAs constitute a larger share of the primary care workforce in rural regions than in urban regions
  • One-third of physicians and one-third of NPs in California are over age 55, which suggests that California will face a more severe shortage of primary care clinicians in the coming decade regardless of whether the Affordable Care Act is repealed