Addressing the Growing Need for Qualified Emergency Surgeons

January 18, 2016
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Emergencies that send patients rolling into the surgical suite are high risk situations. Epidemiologists in the United Kingdom indicate that approximately half of all surgeries are considered emergency in nature. More concerning is that these surgeries are associated with 80% of surgical deaths. Prompt and informed decision-making has been shown to improve emergency surgical outcomes.

Emergencies that send patients rolling into the surgical suite are high risk situations. Epidemiologists in the United Kingdom indicate that approximately half of all surgeries are considered emergency in nature. More concerning is that these surgeries are associated with 80% of surgical deaths. Prompt and informed decision-making has been shown to improve emergency surgical outcomes.

A team of researchers from Manchester, England noticed a relatively new concept of ambulatory emergency care services, and an increasing number of recruitment advertisements for Emergency General Surgery (EGS) physicians. They conducted a study examining the need for this subspecialty and potential employment opportunities.

The UK has no training programs or examinations to qualify surgeons as emergency providers, but the researchers document that the number of EGS advertisements has increased. Between January 2009 and December 2014, the British Medical Journal ran 1240 consultant job advertisements in a general surgical specialty. The majority of them were full-time positions.

Throughout the United Kingdom London and the South East advertised the most jobs. The number of EGS advertisements doubled on the 2012—14 period compared to 2009–11.

The researchers also conducted a survey of physicians and trainees to assess attitudes about an EGS specialty. Sixteen percent of respondents identified as Emergency General Surgeons.

Approximately 8% of trainees indicated they considered practicing in EGS as a career goal.

These researchers cite the growing number of published standards for emergency surgical care and the development of an Acute Care Surgery (ACS), Trauma and Critical Care specialty in the US as part of the impetus to acknowledge this subspecialty.

The researchers conclude that this data identifies Emergency Surgery as a new subspecialty, and they recommend that the UK’s National Health Service consider advanced training and an examination system to ensure emergency surgeons are well trained and highly skilled. This study appears in the January 2016 issue of World Journal of Emergency Surgery.