Provider-centric staffing for purpose-driven healthcare™
Posted on
June 7, 2024

A Comprehensive Approach to Combatting the Surgeon Shortage

In the next ten years, we're looking at 55,000 new jobs for General Surgeons. The problem? There aren't enough Surgeons to fill them. So, what can we do to help out?

Understanding the Reality of the Surgeon Shortage

The general surgery shortage impacts immediate surgical needs and the long-term capacity of healthcare facilities nationwide. This means delayed surgeries, longer patient wait times, and increased stress on existing medical staff, especially in rural and underserved areas.

The Current Scenario: A Look at Numbers

The numbers are stark: By 2032, there could be a shortfall of up to 23,000 Surgeons. An aging population needing more specialized care combined with an insufficient number of new surgeons entering the field has intensified this issue. Efforts such as the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act and the expansion of graduate medical education (GME) slots have introduced some hope, but the general surgery gap continues to widen.

This shortage is particularly severe in certain areas, such as rural surgery, highlighting the need for additional targeted interventions. Federal legislation and advocacy efforts, including support from the American College of Surgeons (ACS), emphasize the critical nature of this issue.

Given the impact of these realities on healthcare providers and patients alike, there's an urgent need for effective solutions.

Impact on Healthcare Providers and Patients

The Surgeon shortage significantly burdens healthcare providers, leading to increased workloads, burnout, and even reduced time for patient care. Hospitals are forced to compete for a limited pool of Surgeons, which can lead to staffing vulnerabilities and compromises in the quality of care. This scarcity is felt profoundly by patients who face longer wait times for surgery, potentially worsening their conditions and overall health outcomes.

Why is there a Surgeon Shortage?

The surgeon shortage has several core causes. Firstly, an aging population increases demand for surgeries and coincides with many surgeons retiring. And despite legislation and advocacy efforts, the cap on government-funded GME positions has kept the number of training positions stagnant.

Additionally, the preference for surgical subspecialties over general surgery has led to a workforce maldistribution. Subspecialties often offer higher pay and more predictable schedules. Not to mention, bureaucratic hurdles and the demanding nature of general surgery can further deter new entrants.

Understanding these causes is essential for devising strategies to increase General Surgeon numbers and improve distribution across specialties and regions.

Strategies to Address the Surgeon Shortage

Confronting the surgeon shortage requires a multipronged approach involving policy changes, educational reforms, and innovative staffing solutions. A key barrier is the limitation on medical education funding and opportunities. Organizations like the ACS have proposed recommendations addressing various policies and reform. Rethinking these aspects is crucial for a sustainable influx of surgeons.

5 Recommendations from the American College of Surgeons (ACS)

  1. Reducing Student Loan Debt for Physicians: Legislative efforts aim to reduce the financial burden of medical education to address the surgeon shortage.
  2. Prohibiting Non-Compete Agreements: Banning non-compete agreements would allow surgeons more freedom to practice where they are needed most.
  3. Improving Access to General Surgery: Legislation supports studying and addressing general surgery shortages, particularly in underserved areas.
  4. Reauthorizing the HPSA Surgical Incentive Program: Reauthorizing the HPSA program would incentivize surgeons to perform major surgeries in underserved areas.
  5. Reforming Graduate Medical Education (GME): ACS advocates for flexible and evidence-based GME reforms to ensure a sufficient and well-distributed surgical workforce.

We're a little biased at Caliber, but innovative staffing models like locum tenens can help fill immediate gaps while long-term solutions are implemented. This flexible model provides relief to overstretched facilities and diverse experiences for Surgeons.

Rethinking Healthcare Staffing: Encouraging Locum Tenens Opportunities

In the face of the general surgery shortage, locum tenens staffing emerges as a crucial part of the solution. By offering flexible, temporary positions, locum tenens allows for immediate relief in areas facing acute shortages. For hospitals and healthcare systems, this model offers a way to maintain high standards of care without the long-term commitments associated with permanent hires. By rethinking staffing models and introducing more flexible solutions like locum tenens, we can take significant strides towards overcoming the challenges posed by the general surgeon shortage.

How Locum Tenens Can Alleviate the Surgeon Shortage

The Surgeon shortage is a pressing issue, but locum tenens positions offer a practical solution by attracting talent to where it's needed most. At Caliber Healthcare Solutions, we recognize the pivotal role locum tenens surgeons play in addressing this gap. These positions can draw surgeons to rural areas that often struggle to attract permanent staff, ensuring that patients in these underserved locations receive the care they need.

Locum tenens placements allow surgeons who specialize in certain procedures to be matched with facilities where their specific skillsets are required, enhancing the quality of care provided. This model also enables surgeons to fulfill their desire to help in rural and underserved areas without necessitating a permanent move, providing flexibility and autonomy.

Additionally, working in diverse practice environments helps Surgeons keep their skills sharp and expand their expertise. By offering temporary relief to overburdened permanent staff, locum tenens roles can reduce burnout and attrition among doctors. This approach encourages a healthier work-life balance and increases job satisfaction, ultimately contributing to a more resilient surgical workforce.

Locum tenens align with ongoing legislative efforts and public policy to address the general surgery shortage. By filling immediate gaps and offering long-term benefits, locum tenens surgeons support the overall goal of improving access to quality healthcare and enhancing the effectiveness of the healthcare system.

How Caliber Connects Hospitals to Qualified Surgeons

Caliber Healthcare Solutions addresses the general surgeon shortage by matching facilities with highly qualified Surgeons, ensuring the right fit rather than just filling a shift. Our-specialty-focused recruiting teams use a meticulous vetting process to ensure that only the most skilled and dedicated Surgeons are presented to our client facilities, ultimately improving patient care. By focusing on quality placements, we contribute to a more effective and resilient surgical workforce.

Improving Patient Care through a Provider-Centric Approach

At Caliber, we believe the key to addressing staffing shortages and improving patient care is focusing on the well-being of our healthcare providers. Our provider-centric model empowers General Surgeons with the flexibility, compensation, and support needed to thrive in their careers and achieve a better work-life balance, which ultimately leads to improved patient outcomes.

This approach not only caters to the immediate needs presented by the surgical shortage but also contributes to a broader effort to increase access to surgical care nationwide. Surgeons who explore locum tenens opportunities can create a more dynamic and adaptive surgical workforce capable of meeting the diverse needs of patients across the country.

If you're a facility seeking quality coverage or a General Surgeon hoping to explore rewarding locum tenens opportunities, contact Caliber today.

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