Volume 7, Issue 2 (2012) Rural General Surgery: A Review of the Current Situation and Realities from a Rural Community Practice in Central Neb.

Purpose: To examine the reasons fewer students and residents are entering general surgery, to educate residents about the realities of rural general surgery based on the experience of three general surgeons in central Nebraska, and to suggest a strategy for individual general surgeons and for residency programs to maintain the rural surgical workforce.

Methods: A systematic literature review of surveys, review articles, and editorials through PUBMED was performed. Relevant studies were included in a review of the current literature on the rural general surgery workforce, general surgery residency, fellowship training, and rural surgery education.

Findings: There is an insufficient supply of general surgeons in many parts of the country, particularly in rural settings. More general surgery residents are entering into subspecialty fellowship training and fewer are practicing general surgery than in the past. Residents may have inaccurate perceptions about rural general surgery practice. Those residency programs with dedicated rural and community surgery rotations have had more success in producing rural general surgeons.

Conclusions: Although specialization in surgery has many positive effects, maintenance of a general surgical workforce in rural America is crucial to the health care of many citizens. Increasing the numbers of mentoring and training programs could provide medical students and general surgery residents with more educational opportunities that may lead to increased interest in rural surgery.