You’ve probably heard about the impending shortage of anesthesiologists and intensivists. The lack of anesthesiologists is called out in “An Analysis of the Labor Markets for Anesthesiology,” (Lindsay Daugherty, Raquel Fonseca, Krishna B. Kumar, Pierre-Carl Michaud) where they estimate that “the current supply of ANs (FTE) would have to increase by 3,800 to meet U.S. demand, and the current supply of CRNAs (FTE) would have to increase by 1,282 to meet U.S. demand.” Current demand is being met by overtime, but they go onto to predict that this situation will worsen by 2020.
In the “Current and projected workforce requirements for the care of the critically ill,” (Angus, et al. JAMA 2000) the predicted lack of intensivists is discussed. The article states that “demand will grow rapidly while supply will remain near constant, yielding a shortfall of specialist hours equal to 22% of demand by 2020 and 35% by 2030, primarily because of the aging of the US population. Sensitivity analyses suggest that the spread of current health care reform initiatives will either have no effect or worsen this shortfall.”
I was chatting with a senior anesthesiologist the other day about the impending problems. He told me that in the facility where he worked 5 years ago, the clinical anesthesia staff had an average of 16 years of experience. Today, he said, it’s closer to 8.
He feels the problem isn’t the shortage that’s coming; it’s the lack of experience now, the lack of having had the opportunity to see the rarer or stranger situations and, therefore, knowing what to do about them or when to call for the support of a more experienced staff member.
That’s the thing that keeps him from sleeping at night.
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