On the Mend: Elective Surgeries Are Rebounding Across the U.S.

Locum tenens providers are helping hospitals level set their surgical backlogs

The amount of money hospitals have lost during the pandemic from cancelled elective surgeries is an astounding $22.3 billion, according to the Annals of Surgery. The story of why 28,000,000 procedures were put on hold is understandable: thousands of patients sick with COVID-19 flooded hospitals globally and needed beds and medical attention. Any procedure that could be postponed, from orthopedic to cosmetic, was halted, freeing up providers to assist with critical care. And while last year was a trying one, today the course is changing.

Now elective surgeries are rebounding, creating a high demand for surgeons, anesthesiologists, and certified nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).

Providers Wanted

The pandemic caused healthcare providers to work longer, more arduous hours, which led to fatigue, burnout, and even depression. Many have quit or readied themselves for a much-anticipated exit from the profession just as soon as the patient load stays at a decreased level. According to the Braff Group, in a post-pandemic world, hospitals will see substantial turnover as providers leave the workforce for early retirement — an unfortunate reality that will only further postpone backlogged surgeries.

But even decades before the pandemic, hospitals around the world struggled to find enough providers to meet patient demand, and the problem won’t be resolved any time soon. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) forecasts an overall physician shortfall of 140,000 by 2033. Among the most in demand: anesthesiologists and CRNAs, two specialties vital to so many elective surgeries. AAMC forecasts a 12,500 shortfall of anesthesiologists by 2033, and shortages for CRNAs will also continue, particularly in rural healthcare settings.

Filling in the Gaps

McKinsey reports there’s at least two months of pent-up excess surgical demand across the U.S., which would mean that hospitals would have to operate at 120 percent of historical volumes for 10 months consecutively just level set. If the healthcare industry thought it was difficult to find enough providers before the pandemic, how will they catch up today with the backlog of elective surgeries?

Facilities are turning to the much-needed support of locum tenens providers, a group that’s proven to be the critical link to filling surgical demand. By and large, hospitals make their greatest financial margins and gains through elective surgeries, so it’s in their best interest to get back on track. Locum tenens providers, and in particular surgeons, anesthesiologists, and CRNAs, are vital to scheduling and completing these lucrative surgeries.

The next several months will be instrumental in completing backlogged surgeries, and there’s the possibility that elective procedures will be cancelled again if the battle against COVID-19 takes another nasty turn. But as hospitals and surgery centers continue catch up, locums providers will be there, scrubbing in to assist and meet the ongoing patient demand.

Learn more about how our locums providers can assist with elective surgeries.

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