The anesthesia provider’s guide to surgeon satisfaction

Of all the medical specialists, surgeons are some of the least satisfied providers around.

In a 2015 report by Medscape, less than half of the U.S. surgeons surveyed reported being satisfied with their career, earning the third lowest ranking among the 26 specialties surveyed. In addition, only 41 percent reported they felt fairly compensated for their work.

These are alarming numbers, given the growing demand among health systems and patient communities for clinically skilled surgeons. Between 1992 and 2012 alone, the number of surgeries performed in U.S. community hospitals increased by 17 percent to reach 26.8 million surgical procedures, according to a 2015 report by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.

Despite this increasing demand, experts have been predicting significant physician shortages for several years, citing the growing healthcare needs of the aging baby boomer generation and the high financial and time barriers associated with medical education and training. Of the anticipated physician shortage over the next 10 years, the shortage of surgeons is expected to be one of the highest; a 2015 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts a deficit of up to 31,600 surgeons by 2025.

Not only does this present a problem to patient populations in need of surgical care, but also it jeopardizes the future viability of hospitals and health systems across the country. In a recent report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the OR contributed to nearly half of the studied hospitals’ revenue. This means surgeons, anesthesia providers and other members of the OR staff are in a pivotal position when it comes to optimizing a hospital’s productivity and improving its chances for success down the line.

Anesthesia providers should view surgeons as both their partners and customers in the OR setting. As such, anesthesia providers should proactively foster positive relationships with their surgeon colleagues and commit to increasing their workplace satisfaction. Below are three of surgeons’ primary concerns in the OR, and ways in which anesthesia providers can make a positive contribution to ensuring an efficient operating environment:


Like all healthcare providers, surgeons appreciate having colleagues and staff who are clinically skilled and knowledgeable. Anesthesia providers should work to establish credibility among surgeons and other clinical staff members to develop positive relationships built on mutual trust and respect. This will ultimately lead to a more efficient OR and better patient care.

This is especially important given the potential prevalence of misreporting and distrust within the OR today. Anesthesia providers were four times more likely than surgeons to misreport patient information at least once per month, according to a study published in the journal Patient Safety in Surgery. And yet, despite this imbalance, nearly 70 percent of the anesthesia providers surveyed were concerned about surgeons misreporting information, when only 8 percent of surgeons shared reciprocal concerns. Mutual trust, respect and appreciation must run both ways among clinical co-workers to ensure optimal surgeon satisfaction and a well-run OR.


Physician management company Aegis Health Group cited OR efficiency as a top concern among U.S. surgeons today. Delays in the OR can lead to compromised patient safety and less satisfied surgeons, who rightly value their time and productivity potential.

As hospital operating margins shrink and the shift toward a value-based system continues, physician efficiency has become critical to workplace satisfaction and a health system’s success overall. Healthcare executives rely more heavily than ever on physicians who can see patients in a timely manner and add value to the care continuum.

Because of the OR’s primary position within a hospital’s revenue stream, anesthesia providers, surgeons and OR staff must collaborate to provide efficient, quality care while mitigating delays and surgery rescheduling. Inefficiencies, delayed start times and a lack of control over OR resources can quickly lead to dissatisfied surgeons and an ineffective OR. By prioritizing punctuality and working to resolve patient issues in a timely and collaborative manner, anesthesia leadership can play a vital role in running a smooth and efficient OR with minimal interruptions.


Surgeons don’t like to play musical chairs when it comes to OR staff. Rather, they like to work with a consistent set of anesthesia providers with whom they’ve developed positive relationships.

A survey of more than 1,300 U.S. surgeons found that collegiality and collaboration among co-workers and supervisors were top factors in surgeon workplace satisfaction. Positive workplace relationships ranked more important to surgeons than more traditional satisfaction indicators such as compensation or benefits, according to the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Therefore, anesthesia providers should become familiar with surgeons and their preferences and routines, and tailor the way they provide care accordingly. Without compromising patient care, anesthesia providers should develop protocols that encourage surgeon satisfaction and OR efficiency through familiarity and positive relationships with their clinical partners.

By prioritizing surgeon satisfaction, anesthesia providers can make a much needed, positive contribution toward a more effective healthcare system overall.

To learn more about how to increase surgeon satisfaction, please contact us at

By Tim Adams, M.D., President and Chief Medical Officer, Epix Anesthesia

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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