Future Supply of Pediatric Surgeons: Analytical Study of the Current and Projected Supply of Pediatric Surgeons in the Context of a Rapidly Changing Process for Specialty and Subspecialty Training

Ricketts, T. C.; Adamson, W. T.; Fraher, E. P.; Knapton, A.; Geiger, J. D.; Abdullah, F.; Klein, M. D.

Ann Surg. 2016 Jun 10; 265(3):609-615


OBJECTIVE: To describe the future supply and demand for pediatric surgeons using a physician supply model to determine what the future supply of pediatric surgeons will be over the next decade and a half and to compare that projected supply with potential indicators of demand and the growth of other subspecialties. BACKGROUND: Anticipating the supply of physicians and surgeons in the future has met with varying levels of success. However, there remains a need to anticipate supply given the rapid growth of specialty and subspecialty fellowships. This analysis is intended to support decision making on the size of future fellowships in pediatric surgery. METHODS: The model used in the study is an adaptation of the FutureDocs physician supply and need tool developed to anticipate future supply and need for all physician specialties. Data from national inventories of physicians by specialty, age, sex, activity, and location are combined with data from residency and fellowship programs and accrediting bodies in an agent-based or microsimulation projection model that considers movement into and among specialties. Exits from practice and the geographic distribution of physician and the patient population are also included in the model. Three scenarios for the annual entry into pediatric surgery fellowships (28, 34, and 56) are modeled and their effects on supply through 2030 are presented. RESULTS: The FutureDocs model predicts a very rapid growth of the supply of surgeons who treat pediatric patients-including general pediatric surgeon and focused subspecialties. The supply of all pediatric surgeons will grow relatively rapidly through 2030 under current conditions. That growth is much faster than the rate of growth of the pediatric population. The volume of complex surgical cases will likely match this population growth rate meaning there will be many more surgeons trained for those procedures. The current entry rate into pediatric surgery fellowships (34 per year) will result in a slowing of growth after 2025, a rate of 56 will generate a continued growth through 2030 with a likely plateau after 2035. CONCLUSIONS: The rate of entry into pediatric surgery will continue to exceed population growth through 2030 under two likely scenarios. The very rapid anticipated growth in focused pediatric subspecialties will likely prove challenging to surgeons wishing to maintain their skills with complex cases as a larger and more diverse group of surgeons will also seek to care for many of the conditions and patients which the general pediatric surgeons and general surgeons now see. This means controlling the numbers of pediatric surgery fellowships in a way that recognizes problems with distribution, the volume of cases available to maintain proficiency, and the dynamics of retirement and shifts into other specialty practice.

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