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Future of Thoracic Surgery, Thoracic surgery programs

Thoracic surgery shortage worsens as graduates fail to pass exams

A new report from the (American) Board of Thoracic Surgery shows a growing number of eligible surgeons are failing the thoracic surgery certification examination.

Record Failure Rate

As stated in the article published at Family Practice News, the failure rate has doubled to 28% in just a few short years.  This comes at a critical period in American medicine as shortages in specialty surgeons have emerged around the country due to an aging workforce.  This shortage is not confined to the United States – and has been echoed in Canada, the UK and several other industrialized nations.

Decrease in resident hours = decreased surgical knowledge

This record failure rate comes in the wake of recent reforms to resident surgical education  – including several reductions in resident training hours, and the push for a condensed 6 year residency program.

Rapidly evolving surgical technology

At the same time, rapidly evolving surgical technology and research in thoracic surgery may actually require significant curriculum changes and increased length of specialty training, according to this report at Thoracic Surgery News.

But, as previously reported, the extensive training requirements for cardiothoracic surgery have led to fewer residents and widespread vacancies in residency programs as fewer and fewer surgical residents elect to devote themselves to cardiothoracic surgery due to concerns about diminishing financial returns, reduced economic opportunities, excessive student loan burdens and concerns related to the hardships of the ‘cardiothoracic lifestyle’.

Solo Cardiac, General Thoracic tracks may trump combined “Cardiothoracic”

Alternatively, North American surgeons may need to follow the example of many of their international peers and diverge into two separate tracks: cardiac surgery and general thoracic to maintain surgical proficiency without excessive education burden in an era of rapidly evolving surgical knowledge.

 

Additional Recommended Reading:

Ann Thorac Surg. 2009 Aug;88(2):515-21; discussion 521-2. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2009.04.010.
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About K Eckland

World of Thoracic Surgery is a blog about the work, research, and practices of thoracic surgeons around the world. It includes case studies, [sometimes] dry research, interviews with thoracic surgeons along with patient perspectives, and feedback.

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