Introduction: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita impacted a large portion of the medical community in Louisiana. We attempt to determine their impact on the anesthesiology workforce in Louisiana.
Methods: In May 2006, a survey was mailed to 368 Louisiana anesthesiologists, collecting demographic data, retirement plans, impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, position vacancies, practice conditions, and the general state of healthcare in their area. All 3 anesthesiology residency programs in the state were contacted regarding their recent graduates. The 2010 RAND survey of the anesthesiology workforce was reviewed with respect to findings relevant to the state and region.
Results: One hundred seventy surveys were returned, yielding a 46.2% response rate. Among the respondents, 13.9% intended to retire within 5 years and another 24% in 5 to 10 years. Since 2005, 63.9% had seen an increase in their daily caseload, 46.9% saw an increase in work hours, and 36.8% stated that their practices were trying to hire new anesthesiologists and were having difficulty filling these positions. Since 2005, the number of anesthesiology residents in Louisiana had declined by almost 50%, and the number of graduates remaining to practice in Louisiana had decreased by 43% from 7 to 4 annually.
Conclusions: Our 2006 survey provided qualitative evidence for a shortage of anesthesiologists in the state of Louisiana after the natural disasters in 2005 that was likely to worsen as residency output plummeted, fewer residents stayed in the state, and projected retirement increased. The regional data from the RAND survey a year later confirmed the impressions from our survey, with an estimate of an anesthesiologist shortage as high as 39% of the workforce. State membership surveys may serve as accurate barometers in the wake of major environmental upheavals affecting regional anesthesiology workforce conditions.
Keywords: Hurricane Katrina; Hurricane Rita; physician shortages; workforce management.