Workforce Patterns of Rural Surgeons in West Virginia

Gates, Robert L.; Walker, John T.; Denning, David A.
May 2003
American Surgeon;May2003, Vol. 69 Issue 5, p367
Academic Journal
Rural general surgeons perform a wide variety of procedures and have practices different from those of surgeons in larger communities. Because of this residents completing a classical general surgery training program may not be prepared for the rural setting. The 219 licensed physicians in West Virginia who list general surgery as their practice specialty with the State Board were surveyed to determine the nature of the rural surgery workforce and to examine the caseload of these surgeons. The majority of rural surgeons were satisfied with their current situation; however, 22 per cent stated that they would leave the practice of medicine if financially able. One-third of these surgeons regarded the rural setting as having an adverse impact on their practice. More than half of those surveyed stated that they would not encourage a young person to pursue a career in medicine. For one-third of rural surgeons general medicine was part of daily practice. The caseload varied by community size. Surgeons in communities of fewer than 10,000 people performed a lower percentage of general surgical procedures than surgeons in urban areas. They listed obstetric and gynecologic (9%), urologic (5%), otolaryngologic (9%), and orthopedic (4%) procedures as part of their regular cases. Endoscopic procedures comprise 17 to 24 per cent of total procedures regardless of community size. We conclude that resident surgeons planning to pursue a career in rural general surgery should broaden their operative and general medicine experiences to meet the needs of the communities in which they will serve.


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