Finding gastroenterology support staff a 'formidable problem,' physician says

Inadequate staffing is one of the biggest issues facing gastroenterology, according to Lawrence Schiller, MD, program director of the gastroenterology fellowship at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. 

Dr. Schiller joined Becker's ASC Review to discuss how staffing shortages and inadequate workforces will strain gastroenterology in years to come. 

Question: What are the biggest threats to gastroenterology?

Dr. Schiller:

1. Inadequate workforce. A big expansion in the size of the gastroenterology workforce began 40 years ago with increasing utilization of endoscopy. Many of the gastroenterologists trained at the beginning of that expansion are now retiring or dying off.

Even though the demand for gastroenterology services continues to increase due to population growth and increased demand for services, the number of training slots has been relatively static for the last 15 years, presaging a shortage of gastroenterologists in the near future. While some of this gap may be offset by increasing use of midlevel providers, training programs must find the resources to increase their output of gastroenterologists.

2. Capacity limits due to physical infrastructure and inadequate staffing. Although the number of ASCs has increased, capacity lags behind anticipated demand, especially as volumes increase after the pandemic. This lack of capacity is due to both lack of physical space and staffing with trained endoscopy nurses and technicians. Development of more ASC facilities will lag behind demand until volumes pick up post-pandemic, since investors will want to be sure about return on investment.

A more formidable problem is finding enough individuals interested in careers as support staff for endoscopy centers to allow operation of more physical capacity. Creative recruitment and training programs will have to be developed.

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