The purpose of this study was to determine a reliable estimate of the size, demographic, and practice characteristics of the current pediatric neurosurgical workforce. The authors also sought to differentiate pediatric from nonpediatric neurosurgical practitioners and compare the demographic and practice characteristics of these 2 groups. The term “pediatric practitioner” will be used in this study to describe a practitioner whose practice is > 75% pediatric patients in accordance with the American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery (ABPNS) requirements for board certification in pediatric neurosurgery. Those practitioners with < 75% pediatric patients in their practice will be designated as “nonpediatric practitioners.”
The authors aggregated multiple databases of professional neurosurgical societies in an effort to identify pediatric neurosurgical practitioners. A 30-question survey was then administered to all identified practitioners, and responses were collected for 6 months. Primary analysis of pediatric versus nonpediatric practitioners was performed. Subgroup analyses of the characteristics of the pediatric practitioners were also performed to identify the effects of practitioner age, sex, and practice setting on survey responses.
A total of 342 practitioners received the survey, and 267 responded (78.1% response rate); 158 pediatric practitioners and 92 nonpediatric practitioners were identified. Seventeen respondents were excluded from analysis. Pediatric practitioners were more likely to be women, ABPNS certified, have completed a pediatric fellowship, do fewer operative cases per year, have a more frequent call schedule, practice in a freestanding children's hospital, be in academic practice, and in need of recruiting additional faculty. Pediatric practitioners spent fewer hours per week in patient care, and were less likely to have a productivity-based salary or salary incentive based on relative value unit–production. Among pediatric practitioners, American Board of Neurological Surgery and ABPNS certification rates differed significantly among age groups, with older age groups being more likely to be certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery and ABPNS. The rate of pediatric fellowship completion was significantly higher in the younger age groups. Anticipating retirement by age 65 was significantly more likely in the younger age groups, and hours spent per week spent in teaching and administrative duties were lower in the younger age groups. There were 27 female and 131 male pediatric practitioners. The women were more likely to have completed a pediatric fellowship and performed fewer operative cases per year than the men. Nonacademic pediatric practitioners were more likely to have a relative value unit–based salary incentive, be reimbursed for call coverage, and spend more hours per week in patient care than academic pediatric practitioners. Academic pediatric practitioners spent more hours per week in clinical research.
The authors estimate that there are fewer than 200 pediatric neurosurgeons currently practicing in the United States. Current practice patterns unique to pediatrics may have important implications in recruiting and retaining the next generation of pediatric neurosurgeons.