VA Physician Shortage Exacerbated by Physician Board Certification Politics

VA PhysiciansThe quality of health care provided to America’s veterans is in jeopardy because of a shortage of physicians working for Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals and for other institutions associated with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). The fact that there are more than 1,400 unfilled positions in the nation’s VA health system parallels the overall physician shortage crisis nationwide. However, there is one additional barrier to a potential remedy for the VA hospital shortage. Even after two decades of political wrangling, hiring practices at the VA still are not influenced by a formal, written policy intended to recognize physician board certification through the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).

Many ABPS physicians are veterans and wish to work for VA institutions. However, the only multi-specialty board certifying bodies currently recognized for hiring purposes by the VA are the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). This arbitrary road block to better health care for America’s veterans would be remedied if the VA institutions joined the CMS and the G.I. Bill in accepting ABPS physician board certification.

There are a number of reasons why physicians who chose to join the ABPS rather than the ABMS or AOA are locked out of the VA hiring process – or ostracized on those rare occasions when they are hired by VA institutions. To start with, the advisors to the DVA all hold leadership positions with the ABMS. This is a clear conflict of interest, because the ABMS naturally wishes to maintain a controlling position when it comes to who can and cannot be hired at VA institutions. Yet, there is no legitimate reason to exclude ABPS physicians from eligibility for these positions. In fact, as America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the current shortage of VA physicians will become exacerbated with an influx of veterans who need and deserve the best possible health care.

That is what the ABPS and its Member Boards have stood for since the organization’s inception in 1960. Physicians who achieve board certification through ABPS Member Boards are eminently qualified to fill with distinction positions with any health care organization, including the nation’s VA institutions. ABPS physicians practice in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Canada. Our clinically based written, oral, and simulation exams are developed using the most rigorous standards for measuring the knowledge and skill set required to provide the best patient care available. All ABPS physicians must adhere to the organization’s Medical Code of Ethics, and eligibility requirements for board certification are as stringent as any board certifying body.

To learn more about how the ABPS could help mitigate the physician shortage in VA hospitals and make sure our veterans receive the medical care they have earned, contact us today. The ABPS is the official board certifying body of the American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc.

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Medical organizations throughout North America understand that our rigorous certification standards prove that ABPS Diplomates are capable of delivering the best patient care possible.

Board certification through the American Board of Physician Specialties has served to substantiate my interest and additional training in several fields of medicine including Internal Medicine, Disaster Medicine, and Administrative Medicine. As a result, I have been able to serve my community in clinical, disaster response, and administrative medicine roles. Through the ABPS, I have become recognized as a leader in my various fields of interest.

Spencer Price MD, MPH, MBA
Internal Medicine, Disaster Medicine, Administrative Medicine
BCEM certification through ABPS has provided me with many opportunities. It has helped me demonstrate that I have special experience and expertise in Emergency Medicine beyond that obtained through my family medicine training. BCEM certification firmly established me as an emergency medicine specialist once I started working in emergency medicine full time. ABPS has also helped me network with other family physicians with a passion for improving rural and underserved emergency medicine practice.

Alex Beuning, MD, FAAEP
Emergency Medicine
Personal challenge and motivation compelled me to pass my ABPS board exam. Measurement and confirmation of my own knowledge base reinforced my self-confidence. The ABPS, with its history of inclusivity, has allowed me to have a voice in the organization, while permitting me to impact overall national patient safety and care through certification. Participation in exam development afforded me the opportunity to witness the rigorousness of the exam process and psychometrically sound product, while developing meaningful collegiality, professional life enrichment, and warding off burn out.

Elizabeth Maxwell-Schmidt MD, FAAEP, FACEP
Emergency Medicine