Thoracic surgery shortage worsens as graduates fail to pass exams

a record number of surgeons fail to pass the American thoracic surgery certification exam, in the midst of a deepening shortage of surgeons.

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.

The Future of Thoracic Surgery

What is the future of thoracic surgery? Who are our brightest and best young surgeons? Who are the upcoming surgeons of tomorrow?

The future of Thoracic Surgery and the impending shortages of thoracic surgeons is something I’ve talked about before on my sister sites, but since it’s integral to any discussion on thoracic surgery – I’ve re-posted some of my thoughts here.

In discussions on the growing medical tourism phenomenon, we talked about the fact that these shortages, not cost, will soon be the driving force behind the outsourcing of American health care.

We also talked about the need to interview thoracic surgeons in other locations, tour their facilities, observe surgeries and evaluate the care – to establish our international networks now, in:
Chasing Thoracics

But, as this site grows and matures, I would also like to start profiling some of the wonderful and talented surgeons I have been interviewing and meeting during my travels. I also [and this is a big leap] would like to do MORE travelling, as part of an effort to meet more of our thoracic surgery counterparts all over the globe – and bring them here, to you, my readers.

K. Eckland ACNP

For a snapshot of Thoracic Surgeons (dated to 2002), the profession, and projections – this article gives an excellent overview.

Impending Thoracic Surgery Shortage – unable to fill residencies (2008)

Thoracic surgery education; Past, Present and Future (2005) – shortage projections, educational requirements and implications for the future