Papers from 2002 to 2017 have highlighted consistent unique socioeconomic challenges and opportunities facing military neurosurgeons. Here, the authors focus on the reserve military neurosurgeon who carries the dual mission of both civilian and military responsibilities.
Survey solicitation of current active duty and reserve military neurosurgeons was performed in conjunction with the AANS/CNS Joint Committee of Military Neurosurgeons and the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies. Demographic, qualitative, and quantitative data points were compared between reserve and active duty military neurosurgeons. Civilian neurosurgical provider data were taken from the 2016 NERVES (Neurosurgery Executives Resource Value and Education Society) Socio-Economic Survey. Economic modeling was done to forecast the impact of deployment or mobilization on the reserve neurosurgeon, neurosurgery practice, and the community.
Seventy-five percent (12/16) of current reserve neurosurgeons reported that they are satisfied with their military service. Reserve neurosurgeons make significant contributions to the military’s neurosurgical capabilities, with 75% (12/16) having been deployed during their career. No statistically significant demographic differences were found between those serving on active duty and those in the reserve service. However, those who served in the reserves were more likely to desire opportunities for improvement in the military workflow requirements compared with their active duty counterparts (p = 0.04); 92.9% (13/14) of current reserve neurosurgeons desired more flexible military drill programs specific to the needs of practicing physicians. The risk of reserve deployment is also borne by the practices, hospitals, and communities in which the neurosurgeon serves in civilian practice. This can result in fewer new patient encounters, decreased collections, decreased work relative value unit generation, increased operating costs per neurosurgeon, and intangible limitations on practice development. However, through modeling, the authors have illustrated that reserve physicians joining a larger group practice can significantly mitigate this risk. What remains astonishing is that 91.7% of those reserve neurosurgeons who were deployed noted the experience to be rewarding despite seeing a 20% reduction in income, on average, during the fiscal year of a 6-month deployment.
Reserve neurosurgeons are satisfied with their military service while making substantial contributions to the military’s neurosurgical capabilities, with the overwhelming majority of current military reservists having been deployed or mobilized during their reserve commitments. Through the authors’ modeling, the impact of deployment on the military neurosurgeon, neurosurgeon’s practice, and the local community can be significantly mitigated by a larger practice environment.