Background: The changing nature of the United States (US) health care system has prompted debate concerning the physician supply. The basic questions are: do we have an adequate number of surgeons to meet current demands and are we training the correct number of surgeons to meet future demands? The purpose of this analysis was to characterize the current pediatric orthopaedic workforce in terms of supply and demand, both present and future.
Methods: Databases were searched (POSNA, SF Match, KID, MGMA) to determine the current pediatric orthopaedic workforce and workforce distribution, as well as pediatric orthopaedic demand.
Results: The number of active Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA) members increased over the past 20 years, from 410 in 1993 to 653 in 2014 (155% increase); however, the density of POSNA members is not equally distributed, but correlates to population density. The number of estimated pediatric discharges, orthopaedic and nonorthopaedic, has remained relatively stable from 6,348,537 in 1997 to 5,850,184 in 2012. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of pediatric orthopaedic fellows graduating from Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and non-Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education programs increased from 39 to 50 (29%), with a peak of 67 fellows (71%) in 2009.
Discussion: Although predicting the exact need for pediatric orthopaedic surgeons (POS) is impossible because of the complex interplay among macroeconomic, governmental, insurance, and local factors, some trends were identified: the supply of POS has increased, which may offset the expected numbers of experienced surgeons who will be leaving the workforce in the next 10 to 15 years; macroeconomic factors influencing demand for physician services, driven by gross domestic product and population growth, are expected to be stable in the near future; expansion of the scope of practice for POS is expected to continue; and further similar assessments are warranted.
Level of evidence: Level II-economic and decision analysis.