Attitudes, training experiences, and professional expectations of US general surgery residents: a national survey

JAMA. 2009 Sep 23;302(12):1301-8. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.1386.


Context: General surgery residency programs are facing multiple pressures, including attracting and retaining residents. Despite the importance of resident perspectives in designing effective responses to these pressures, understanding of residents' views is limited.

Objective: To profile US general surgery residents; characterize resident attitudes, experiences, and expectations regarding training; and examine differences by sex and training year.

Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional study of all general surgery residents completing a survey in January 2008 following administration of the American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination.

Main outcome measures: Resident satisfaction; perceived supports, strains and concern; career motivations; and professional expectations.

Results: Of 5345 categorical general surgery residents, 4402 (82.4%) responded, representing 248 of 249 surgical residency programs. Most respondents expressed satisfaction with training (3686 [85.2%]; 95% confidence interval [CI], 84.1%-86.3%) and supportive peer relationships (3433 [84.2%]; 95% CI, 83.1%-85.3%). However, residents also reported unmet needs and apprehensions about training and careers. Worry that they will not feel confident performing procedures independently was reported by 1185 (27.5%; 95% CI, 26.2%-28.8%), while 2681 (63.8%; 95% CI, 62.4%-65.3%) reported that they must complete specialty training to be competitive. Perceptions of program support differ, with men more likely than women to report that their program provides support (2188 [74.5%] vs 895 [65.6%]; P < .001), and that they can turn to faculty when having difficulties (2193 [74.5%] vs 901 [66.4%]; P < .001). Reports of having considered leaving training in the prior year differed significantly across years (P < .001), highest in postgraduate year 2 (19.2%) and lowest in postgraduate year 5 (7.2%).

Conclusions: General surgery residents' attitudes, experiences, and expectations regarding training reflect both high levels of satisfaction and sources of strain. These factors vary by sex and training year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Career Choice
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Research Design
  • Sex Factors
  • Students, Medical / psychology
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United States