Policy reform, increased residency space & more: Solving the orthopedic surgeon shortage

Carly Behm -  

An orthopedic surgeon shortage is impending. By 2030, the specialty is expected to be down 5,050 physicians.

Two surgeons shared solutions they believe will help address that shortage.

Ask Orthopedic Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting orthopedic care. We invite all orthopedic surgeon and specialist responses.

Next question: Is private equity doing more good or harm to orthopedic practices?

Please send responses to Carly Behm at cbehm@beckershealthcare.com by 5 p.m. CDT Wednesday, June 1.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What's needed to address the impending orthopedic surgeon shortage?

Niranjan Kavadi, MD, a surgeon in Oklahoma City: The anticipated shortage should be handled on multiple fronts. From the training perspective, the option of increasing the number of residency spots should be explored. The compensation reforms and policies formulated in future should consider the value of orthopedic surgeons and care provided for common musculoskeletal disorders. Regulatory policies conducive to maintain some form of surgeon autonomy and control in their practice would be helpful to encourage future doctors to choose orthopedic surgery as their specialty. 

Arun Hariharan, MD. Pediatric Orthopedics of Southwest Florida (Fort Myers): The impending shortage is unfortunately not unique to orthopedic surgery. There are good data indicating that doctors have a very poor sense of engagement and resilience in their work. 

I believe keys to addressing it are to increase support in the field through a multimodal approach which will draw more trainees and diminish exits from existing surgeons. This includes an increased number of positions, increased opportunities for professional and personal development and autonomy, and a more diversified workforce. 

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