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A Contemporary Reassessment of the US Surgical Workforce Through 2050 Predicts Continued Shortages and Increased Productivity Demands

Journal Title The American Journal of Surgery
Published Date January 01, 2022
Research Type


Background: We aimed to predict practicing surgeon workforce size across ten specialties to provide an up-to-date, national perspective on future surgical workforce shortages or surpluses.

Methods: Twenty-one years of AMA Masterfile data (1997-2017) were used to predict surgeons practicing from 2030 to 2050. Published ratios of surgeons/100,000 population were used to estimate the number of surgeons needed. MGMA median wRVU/surgeon by specialty (2017) was used to determine wRVU demand and capacity based on projected and needed number of surgeons.

Results: By 2030, surgeon shortages across nine specialties: Cardiothoracic, Otolaryngology, General Surgery, Obstetrics-Gynecology, Ophthalmology, Orthopedics, Plastics, Urology, and Vascular, are estimated to increase clinical workload by 10-50% additional wRVU. By 2050, shortages in eight specialties are estimated to increase clinical workload by 7-61% additional wRVU.

Conclusions: If historical trends continue, a majority of surgical specialties are estimated to experience workforce deficits, increasing clinical demands substantially.

Keywords: Surgeon retirement; Surgeon shortage; Surgeon workforce; Surgical education.