Accurate estimations of pediatric surgical manpower needs are necessary if this specialty is to avoid the consequences of under- or oversupply, and reasonable decisions must be made relative to the number of training programs needed.
Fifteen, 10, and 5 years ago, pediatric surgeons (PSs) in 62 standard metropolitan statistical areas (SMSAs) having a population of at least 200,000 were asked to estimate the number of PSs needed in their localities. A computer program analogous to the SOSSUS program was designed to project the number of PSs that would result from various numbers of trainee graduates per year. The program has been updated for comparison. Known input data included the present number and age of PSs, age range of trainees, current US population projections to the year 2025, and the average retirement age.
These PSs estimated that 88 additional PSs are needed in the next 10 years. Currently, 26 programs in the United States graduate an average of 24 trainees per year, and six programs in Canada graduate six trainees per year. The previous projection indicated that 20 trainees per year would result in 525 PSs in 1993, and the actual number is 559; so the figures indicate that 27 or 28 PSs are entering practice each year. The apparent increase in numbers is related to entry of Canadian trainees primarily, and a few others, into practice. The current computer projection indicates that 20 graduate trainees per year would result in an absolute increase of 0.55% per year, and 25 per year would result in an increase of 1.43% per year, to 2020, while the increases in the US population would be 1.02% per year for all ages and 0.52% for 0 to 15 year olds. If all programs currently being considered for approval are certified, as many as 36 trainees per year--or 7 times the rate of the 0-15-year population increase--will result.
Although an average of 20 graduates per year entering practice would keep pace with the pediatric population, 25 to 27 graduates per year--or 3.5 to 4 times the rate of the 0- to 15-year population increase--can be accommodated now into the current system of delivery of pediatric surgical care on the basis of estimated need. Many more graduates than this would create an excess of surgeons before long.