A surgical career? The views of junior women doctors

Med Educ. 2000 Aug;34(8):602-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2000.00666.x.


Objective: To explore female pre-registration house officers (PRHOs) views of surgery as a possible career choice.

Design and participants: In this qualitative study in-depth semistructured interviews were carried out with 15 female PRHOs. They were part of a larger sample of 24 PRHOs (15 women and nine men) who were being interviewed primarily to explore their ways of learning in both hospital and general practice settings. This paper focuses on the responses of the 15 women in relation to surgery as a possible career choice.

Methods: Interviews incorporated a checklist of topics to encourage participants to discuss their experiences of learning and working as PRHOs, including factors which had impacted on future career choices. Common themes were identified by comparing narratives.

Results: Only three of the 15 women PRHOs were considering a career in surgery. The importance of positive surgical placements and contact with female surgical registrars and consultants during undergraduate training was highlighted. The changing nature of the surgical PRHO job with its lack of surgical exposure was unlikely to change the future career plans of female PRHOs. Factors such as the perceived difficulties of combining a family with a surgical career and the lack of women in particular surgical specialties were of considerable concern.

Conclusions: Strategies for ensuring that female medical students receive a more positive view of surgery need to be implemented. Surgical PRHO jobs should be re-evaluated to assess the surgical experience being gained by doctors, particularly in light of the reduction in junior doctors' hours. Despite policy initiatives, many newly qualified women doctors have already decided against a surgical career.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Career Choice*
  • Education, Medical
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Physicians, Women / psychology*
  • United Kingdom