Family medicine residents and the impostor phenomenon

Fam Med. 2004 Apr;36(4):248-52.


Background and objectives: Some family medicine residents often doubt their ability to become competent family physicians. Individuals who believe themselves to be less intelligent and less competent than others perceive them to be are described in the psychological literature as having the "impostor phenomenon." This study sought to determine the prevalence of the impostor phenomenon in family medicine residents.

Methods: We conducted a mail survey of all 255 family medicine residents in Wisconsin. The survey included the Clance Imposter Scale and two scales measuring depression and anxiety.

Results: A total of 185 surveys were returned, for a 73% response rate. Forty-one percent of women and 24% of men scored as "impostors." Impostor symptoms were highly correlated with depression and anxiety.

Conclusions: About one third of family medicine residents believe they are less intelligent and less competent than others perceive them to be. These residents suffer psychological distress and do not believe they will be ready to practice family medicine after graduation. Teachers may assist these learners by letting them know such feelings are common and by providing regular, timely, and positive feedback.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Depression*
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Self Efficacy