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COVID‐19 and cardiothoracic surgery: Effects on training and workforce utilization in a global pandemic

Smood, B., Spratt, J.R., Mehaffey, J.H., Luc, J.G.Y., Vinck, E.E., Lehtinen, M.L., Wallen, T.J., Jenkinson, C.G., Kim, W., Kesieme, E.B., Han, J.J., Helmers, M.R., Iyengar, A., Patrick, W.L., Kelly, J.J., Watkins, A.A., Cevasco, M. and Williams, M.L. (2021) COVID‐19 and cardiothoracic surgery: Effects on training and workforce utilization in a global pandemic. Journal of Cardiac Surgery, 36 (9). pp. 3296-3305.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all aspects of healthcare, including cardiothoracic surgery (CTS). We sought to determine the pandemic's impact on CTS trainees' educational experiences.


A survey was developed and distributed to members of the Thoracic Surgery Residents Association and other international CTS trainees. Trainees were asked to evaluate their cumulative experiences and share their overall perceptions of how CTS training had been impacted during the earliest months of the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., since March 01, 2020). Surveys were distributed and responses were recorded June 25–August 05, 2020. In total, 748 surveys were distributed and 166 responses were received (overall response rate 22.2%). Of these, 126 of 166 responses (75.9%) met inclusion criteria for final analysis.


Final responses analyzed included 45 of 126 (35.7%) United States (US) and 81 of 126 (64.3%) international trainees, including 101 of 126 (80.2%) senior and 25 of 126 (19.8%) junior trainees. Most respondents (76/126, 43.2%) lost over 1 week in the hospital due to the pandemic. Juniors (12/25, 48.0%) were more likely than seniors (20/101, 19.8%) to be reassigned to COVID-19-specific units (p < .01). Half of trainees (63/126) reported their case volumes were reduced by over 50%. US trainees (42/45, 93.3%) were more likely than international trainees (58/81, 71.6%) to report reduced operative case volumes (p < .01). Most trainees (104/126, 83%) believed their overall clinical acumen was not adversely impacted by the pandemic.


CTS trainees in the United States and abroad have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with time lost in the hospital, decreased operative experiences, less time on CTS services, and frequent reassignment to COVID-19-specific care settings.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Wiley Periodicals LLC
Copyright: © 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC
Other Information: This study was presented at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
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