Keys to career satisfaction: insights from a survey of women pediatric surgeons

J Pediatr Surg. 2004 Jun;39(6):984-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2004.02.039.


Background/purpose: Declining interest in the field of surgery is attributed to lifestyle issues, more women per class, high debt, and long residency. To maintain surgery as a premier career choice, female students must find surgery to be professionally and personally rewarding.

Methods: A 35-item questionnaire was mailed to 95 women pediatric surgeons (WPS), assessing multiple professional and personal factors. Responses were entered into a confidential database and analyzed by chi2 or t tests.

Results: Seventy-nine percent of surveys were returned; practice was identified as academic (60%) and private (40%). Respondents were grouped by age: A, less than 44 years (41%); B, 45 to 54 years (37%); and C, greater than 55 years (22%). For academic WPS, 81% are on timeline for promotion. Insufficient protected time was a significant obstacle for a successful academic career in groups A and B (P =.001). Clinical load, on-call responsibilities, lack of mentorship, and departmental support were major obstacles in all groups (P =.05). Seventy-three percent of WPS in private practice were satisfied with their role in practice management; poor practice conditions were cited as the most frequent reason for job relocation. Sixty-one percent of WPS are married, and 46% are raising children. WPS had statistically significant more responsibilities for child care and household tasks in comparison with their partners. Eighty-three percent report career satisfaction but desire more time with family and for personal interests. Part-time and flexible work schedules were identified as attractive ways to achieve career-family balance. Eighty-four percent believe that quality-of-life issues are the dominant reason that fewer medical students choose surgical fields.

Conclusions: WPS express career satisfaction but share the concerns of their female colleagues in other surgical disciplines. Quality of life is viewed as central to career choice for the current generation of medical students; female role models are key to recruiting women into pediatric surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Canada
  • Career Choice
  • Career Mobility
  • Data Collection
  • Education, Medical / economics
  • Family
  • Female
  • General Surgery* / education
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Pediatrics* / education
  • Physicians, Women / psychology*
  • Physicians, Women / supply & distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance