Predictors, Quality Markers, and Economics of Volunteering Internationally: Results from a Comprehensive Survey of American Society of Plastic Surgeons Members

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Abstract

Background:

Plastic surgeons have a long history of international volunteer work. To date, there have been no outcome-based studies among surgeons who volunteer internationally. The purpose of this study was to describe predictors of volunteering, clinical quality markers, and economics of international volunteering among American plastic surgeons.

Methods:

A cross-sectional validated e-mail survey tool was sent to all board-certified plastic surgeons by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The survey response rate was 15 percent (745 total individuals), of which 283 respondents traveled within the past 5 years. Analysis was performed in R. Stepwise multivariate logistic regression was performed to determine the predictors of death/complication.

Results:

Respondents reported high use of medical records, follow-up care, and host affiliation. Fewer than half of all respondents reported use of international safety surgery guidelines, and the majority of respondents reported volunteering abroad outside of their scope of practice. The majority of children younger than 5 years were not cared for by a pediatric anesthesiologist. The majority of participants reported personally spending more than $1000 on their last trip and performing surgery estimated to be worth on average $28,000 each.

Conclusions:

International surgical volunteer trips attempt to ease the global burden of surgical disease. The authors’ study reports variation in quality of care provided on these trips. Most significantly, the majority of children younger than 5 years were not cared for by a pediatric anesthesiologist, and many plastic surgeons operated outside of their scope of practice.

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