An Updated Physician Workforce Model Predicts a Shortage of Vascular Surgeons for the Next 20 Years

Ann Vasc Surg. 2020 Jul:66:282-288. doi: 10.1016/j.avsg.2020.01.097. Epub 2020 Feb 3.


Background: Concern regarding the adequacy of the vascular surgery workforce persists. We aimed to predict future vascular surgery workforce size and capacity using contemporary data on the US population and number, productivity, and practice patterns of vascular surgeons.

Methods: The workforce size needed to maintain current levels of access was estimated to be 1.4 vascular surgeons/100,000 population. Updated population estimates were obtained from the US Census Bureau. We calculated future vascular surgery workforce needs based on the estimated population for every 10 years from 2020 to 2050. American Medical Association Physician Masterfile data from 1997 to 2017 were used to establish the existing vascular surgery workforce size and predict future workforce size, accounting for annual rates of new certificates (increased to an average of 133/year since 2013), retirement (17%/year), and the effects of burnout, reduced work hours, transitions to nonclinical jobs, or early retirement. Based on Medical Group Management Association data that estimate median vascular surgeon productivity to be 8,481 work relative value units (wRVUs)/year, excess/deficits in wRVU capacity were calculated based on the number of anticipated practicing vascular surgeons.

Results: Our model predicts declining shortages of vascular surgeons through 2040, with workforce size meeting demand by 2050. In 2030, each surgeon would need to increase yearly wRVU production by 22%, and in 2040 by 8%, to accommodate the workload volume.

Conclusions: Our model predicts a shortage of vascular surgeons in the coming decades, with workforce size meeting demand by 2050. Congruence between workforce and demand for services in 2050 may be related to increases in the number of trainees from integrated residencies combined with decreases in population estimates. Until then, vascular surgeons will be required to work harder to accommodate the workload. Burnout, changing practice patterns, geographic maldistribution, and expansion of health care coverage and utilization may adversely affect the ability of the future workforce to accommodate population needs.

MeSH terms

  • Censuses
  • Forecasting
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / trends*
  • Health Workforce / trends*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Needs Assessment / trends*
  • Surgeons / supply & distribution*
  • Surgeons / trends*
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / trends*
  • Workload