Study Predicts Surgeon Shortage, Calls For More Part-Timers

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The report's authors say many patients already face wait times of up to three weeks.(Photo: Cristiano Maia (Flickr))
The report's authors say many patients already face wait times of up to three weeks.(Photo: Cristiano Maia (Flickr))

A new Ohio State University study predicts a possible shortage of surgeons in the U.S. The study says the expected shortage stems in part from younger surgeons desire to balance work and family life.

OSU researchers say the number of surgeons needed to care for patients will increase in the next 20 years as more surgeons retire and other surgeons demand fewer hours on the job. Dr. Bhagwan Satiani is lead author of a study on the impending shortage of surgeons.

Satiani says some patients already experience a wait time of up to 3 weeks when they need surgery.

“I don’t think its vacations and things like that. I think it’s just people don’t want to work 100 hour weeks like we did. And I don’t blame them,” says Satiani.

The study looked at 7 surgical specialties including, obstetrics and orthopedics. By 2030, the shortage of surgeons will be as high as 39% for Thoracic surgery. Neurology will have the least deficit where the amount of surgeons needed will be short by 6%. Dr. Satiani says the number of residents cannot be increased because of stagnant federal funding that has capped medical and surgical residents at about 105,000 per year in the U.S.

But, demanding work schedules are a concern for some medical students.

27 year old Charron Johnson in her second year at OSU’s medical school already has already decided on a practice in Pediatrics and not surgery.

“I still probably wouldn’t choose it just because you still have the stress level of being in the O.R. and I like the more patient interaction, so surgery still probably wouldn’t be for me,” says Johnson.

2nd year OSU medical student 23 year old Kalen Riley has not made up his mind.

“I think I want to do what interests me the most, but I think that a life- work balance is really important for me, Riley says.

27-year-old Rachel Voss is a 4th year medical student at Ohio State. She says despite the tough demands, surgery is her passion.

“I love surgery, I love being in the O.R. It more or less picked me when I got into the O.R. I realized this is what I love to do, this is why I went to medical school, this is why I want to be a doctor. The demands to me were worth it, because it’s something that I love,” says Voss.

Voss is applying for a residency in surgery and then plans to specialize in either oncology or pediatric surgery. She admits though that she wants to have time for a family life later.

Dr. Satiani says one-way to keep future surgeons like Voss in the operating room would be to offer part time positions and flexible hours.

“Studies have shown basically the quality of care, everything else is no different with a part- time physician, then it is with a full-time,” says Satiani.

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