The Aging Neurosurgeon: When Is Enough, Enough? Attitudes Toward Ceasing Practice and Testing in Late Career

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Abstract

Objective:

To present the first wide-scale survey to assess perceptions of testing the aging neurosurgeon.

Patients and Methods:

This study included 4899 neurosurgeons, 2435 American Board of Neurological Surgery Diplomates participating in Maintenance of Certification (MOC), 1440 Diplomates certified before 1999 (grandfathered), and 1024 retired Diplomates. We developed an online confidential survey conducted from March 1, 2016, to May 31, 2016. We received 1449 responses overall (30% response rate).

Results:

Most respondents (938; 65%) were aged 50 years and older. Overall, most respondents (718; 50%) believe that the aging neurosurgeon (65 years and older) should undergo additional testing, including cognitive assessment or a review of cases, in addition to a standard (MOC) examination. Nine hundred fifty-six (67%) respondents believed that there should be no absolute age cutoff at which neurosurgical practice is forced to end. Six hundred six (42%) respondents believed that MOC should be tailored to accommodate the aging neurosurgeon. Most respondents (766; 59%) believed that MOC should consist of a review individual case logs and patient outcomes for the aging neurosurgeon.

Conclusion:

Appropriately assessing the aging neurosurgeon is important to protect patient safety and also maximize the capacity of an aging neurosurgical workforce. This first of its kind survey of neurosurgeon diplomates of the American Board of Neurological Surgery provides important information as to what mechanisms can be created to fairly evaluate aging neurosurgeons. Although this is a study of neurosurgeons, the implications of these findings are widely applicable across specialties, and additional research on testing for aging and competency is needed across specialties.

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