United States Neonatology Practice Survey: Personnel, Practice, Hospital, and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Characteristics

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Abstract

Objective

To describe the current neonatology workforce and its practice patterns.

Design

Using a questionnaire developed by the Committee on Practice of the Section on Perinatal Pediatrics of the American Academy of Pediatrics and distributed to 675 neonatology practices identified in the United States Neonatologists Directory 1996, a survey was conducted from July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1996 requesting specific information relating to personnel, type and size of practice, and clinical services provided at practice hospitals.

Results

Respondents included 420 neonatology practices (62.2% response rate) representing 2006 neonatologists providing clinical care in 695 hospitals, 652 with delivery services that accounted for 1 646 881 live births in 1994. More than 95% of practices and neonatologists identified themselves as based in university, private, or hospital settings. Eighty percent of neonatologists were <50 years old. There was an overall 2:1 male to female gender distribution. Sixty percent of practices consisted of 4 or fewer neonatologists, 25% of practices 5 to 7 neonatologists, and 15% of practices 8 or more neonatologists. Sixty percent of practices provided clinical care in only 1 hospital and 1 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as compared with 15% of practices in 3 or more hospitals and <5% of practices in 3 or more NICUs. Of the total 478 NICUs (22 in children's hospitals), 67% had <501 annual admissions and 33% had more then 500 admissions. Of the 456 NICUs in 652 practice hospitals with delivery services, 61% of hospitals had <2501 annual deliveries (57% with NICUs) and 39% of hospitals had more than 2500 annual deliveries (90% with NICUs). The average inborn admission rate for these practice hospitals was 11.7%. University, private, and hospital practices had consistent rates of admissions for inborn and outborn NICU and special care nursery admissions. More than 60% of neonatology practices were involved in normal newborn care on a routine basis, in addition to staffing developmental clinics and providing inpatient and outpatient pediatric care. Additional information was analyzed for utilization of residents and neonatal nurse practitioners. By 1999, 50% of practices anticipated hiring 279 neonatologists and 575 neonatal nurse practitioners.

Conclusion

Significant discrepancies between earlier projected neonatologist requirements and current neonatology workforce and service responsibilities are discussed in relation to demands of reallocation of subspecialty resources within an evolving health care system. Pediatrics 1998;101:398-405.

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