The impact of employment of part-time surgeons on the expected surgeon shortage

J Am Coll Surg. 2011 Sep;213(3):345-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2011.05.011.


Background: The trend for choosing to work part-time (PT) in medicine is increasing. We hypothesize that strategies to employ PT surgeons and prolong the duration of practice might reduce the surgeon shortage considerably. We calculated the effects of PT employment on the surgical workforce.

Study design: We estimated the surgical workforce in obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, thoracic surgery, ENT, orthopaedic surgery, urology, and neurosurgery to be 99,000 in 2005. We assumed 3,635 Board Certificates would be granted each year and surgeons will practice for 30 years, with 3,300 retiring each year. Scenarios were constructed with one-quarter (scenario 1), one-half (scenario 2), or three-quarters (scenario 3) of potential retirees working half-time for an additional 10 years.

Results: By 2030, with other variables unchanged, the United States would have 4,125; 8,250; and 12,375 additional PT surgeons under scenario 1 (4% increase), scenario 2 (8% increase), and scenario 3 (12% increase), respectively, with a corresponding reduction in the shortage of surgeons.

Conclusions: An opportunity exists to reduce the shortage of surgeons by offering models for PT employment particularly to mid-career women and retiring surgeons. Employment models should address flexible work schedules, malpractice premium adjustments, academic promotion, maintenance of certification and licensure, and employment benefits.

MeSH terms

  • Employment
  • General Surgery*
  • Humans
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*
  • Retirement
  • United States
  • Workforce
  • Workload