Family Physician Shortage from the Perspective of the Media

DOI: 10.3238/zfa.2020.0214-0219

german translation / full article

Julian Wangler, Michael Jansky

Keywords: country doctor family physician shortage primary care rural practice

BackgroundFor some time now, the media have been reporting on the worsening shortage of family physicians (FPs) and the numerical decline of rural practices. In the news coverage, certain textual and visual frames dominate in the context of this issue. The study addresses the question of which medial frames can be found regarding the topic of family physician shortage and how family physicians are portrayed in this context.MethodsIn the course of a qualitative content analysis, the news magazines Spiegel, Focus and Stern as well as the weekly newspaper Die Zeit were systematically searched for articles on the topic of family physician shortage during the period 10/2015 to 9/2019. In addition, relevant ARD and ZDF (the two largest public television channels in Germany) documentaries of the past two years were taken into account. The determination of the frames to be identified followed an indicator-based procedure.ResultsFive frames were identified that present the topic of family physician shortage in different ways. In the first three frames, FPs act as stressed, aged or heavily frustrated primary care providers, who, despite patients’ increasing demands, try to maintain the practice as long as possible. The other frames portray the phenomenon of family physician shortage as a side effect of demographic and structural changes, discuss the attractiveness of the FP profession or deal with suspended places that no longer have access to a FP practice and now receive ‚substitute solutions‘.ConclusionsThe identified media frames reflect societal concerns about the consequences of an increasing family physician shortage in a pointed way. They also reflect the importance of the family physician that is irreplaceable both in his role as a competent primary care provider and in terms of his trusted social role.Keywordsfamily physician shortage; country doctor; rural practice; primary care

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