Introduction: Recent studies report a shortage of pediatric surgeons in the United States. We surveyed members of the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA) to estimate current workforce and demand and to provide data for workforce planning.
Methods: We conducted a survey of 849 APSA members to provide workforce data on their communities as follows: the number of active, retired, or inactive APSA surgeons; non-APSA fellowship graduates; surgeons without accredited fellowship training; and the estimated demand for additional pediatric surgeons. Internet search engines identified surgeons and practices offering pediatric surgical services. The US Census Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) defined service areas with populations of 100,000 or more.
Results: Of 137 MSAs with APSA members in practice, we obtained data from 113 (83%), with 247 (29%) of 849 surgeons responding. We estimate that the current pediatric surgical workforce consists of 1150 surgeons, with APSA members in active practice (60%) forming the single largest group, followed by general surgeons (21%). The percentage of active APSA surgeons was greater than the percentage of general surgeons in the 50 largest MSAs (76% vs 2%, respectively), whereas the opposite was observed in the smaller MSA ranked more than 51 in population (37% vs 46%, respectively). American Pediatric Surgical Association respondents estimated a national demand for 280 additional pediatric surgeons. Active APSA surgeons plan to delay retirement (8% of respondents) because it would leave their group or community shorthanded; 2% reported that retirement would leave the community without a pediatric surgeon.
Discussion: Workforce shortage in pediatric surgery is a problem of number and distribution. Incentives to direct trainees to underserved areas are needed. General surgeons provide pediatric services in many communities. Surgical training should include additional training in pediatric surgery.