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Future of Thoracic Surgery

As Florida’s population booms, surgeon shortage becomes acute

Now that Florida is the third most populated state (behind first ranking California and # 2 Texas) in the United States with a census of almost 20 million residents, the ongoing shortage of surgeons is predicted to become more dire over the next ten years.

the thoracic surgeon: a disappearing breed?

the thoracic surgeon: a disappearing breed?

The problem is multi-factorial: Training, debt, compensation (financial and otherwise)

In a recent article by Donna Gehrke – White at the Sun Sentinel, the need for over 7,000 additional physicians (in a variety of specialties) highlights some of the difficulties in training and retaining specialty physicians in American medicine.  Lengthy training regimens coupled with high student loan debt as well as feelings of frustration and ‘burnout‘ plague a medical landscape that is already burdened with concerns over the fragile state of American health care, escalating healthcare costs and the impact of Obamacare and other recent federally mandated changes to the health care system.

“More schools” are not the answer

While Florida is responding to the impending crisis by opening new residency programs, this doesn’t address some of the more crucial concerns – high vacancy rates in existing programs, the exorbitant costs of a surgical education, and a growing dissatisfaction with current working conditions.

How about better loan repayment programs/ debt forgiveness?  Or greater access to patients (and less time dealing with paperwork/ EMR and reimbursement issues)?  Instead of lengthening/ shortening training programs and relying on computerized models, maybe consider improving the quality of American surgical training by separating the specialty into two separate tracks (like most countries)?

Florida’s shortage of thoracic surgeons: 14?

While the estimated shortage of thoracic surgeons in Florida is only projected to be 14, existing problems in retaining surgical residents and low specialty board pass rates and echos both nationwide and global shortage concerns.  With an aging population, rising rates of esophageal cancer and earlier detection (of surgically treatable) cancers, these numbers may not tell the whole story.

Additional Recommended Reading:

Gordon, D. (2014) 15 things to know about the physician shortage.  Becker’s Hospital Review (on-line).

Seaman, A. M. (2012). Surgeon’s pressures may worsen shortage.  Reuters.  As we’ve noted previously, this is not a new concern, and the latest studies and reports only confirm this data.  In fact, this report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation from 2011, highlights the fact that surgeon shortages are impacting emergency departments ability to provide emergency life-saving treatment.

Aliwadi, G. & Kron, Irving (2008).  The challenges facing thoracic surgeons.  Vascular disease management.  This 2008 article highlights some of the difficulties in attracting and retaining medical students and surgical residents to the cardiothoracic surgery specialty.  While mainly geared at cardiac surgery – and the issues raised by interventionalists and catheter based interventions, it also touches on some of the educational issues that affect both cardiac and general thoracic surgeons.

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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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