The vulnerable stage of dedicated research years of general surgery residency: results of a national survey

Arch Surg. 2011 Jun;146(6):653-8. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.2011.12. Epub 2011 Feb 21.


Objective: To characterize the demographics and attitudes of US general surgery residents performing full-time research.

Design: Cross-sectional national survey administered after the 2008 American Board of Surgery In-Service Training Examination.

Setting: Two hundred forty-eight residency programs.

Participants: General surgery residents.

Intervention: Survey administration.

Main outcomes measures: A third of categorical general surgery residents interrupt residency to pursue full-time research. To our knowledge, there exist no comprehensive reports on the attitudes of such residents.

Results: Four hundred fifty residents performing full-time research and 864 postgraduate year 3 (PGY-3) clinical residents completed the survey. Thirty-eight percent of research residents were female, 53% were married, 30% had children, and their mean age was 31 years. Residency programs that were academic, large, and affiliated with fellowships had proportionally more research residents compared with other programs. Research and PGY-3 residents differed (P < .05) on 10 survey items. Compared with PGY-3 residents, research residents were less likely to feel they fit well in their program (86% vs 79%, respectively), that their program had support structures if they struggled (72% vs 64%), or that they could turn to faculty (71% vs 65%). They were more likely to feel training was too long (21% vs 30%) and that surgeons must be specialty trained (55% vs 63%). In multivariate analyses, research residents believed surgical training was too long (odds ratio, 1.36) and they fit in less well at their programs (odds ratio, 0.71) (P < .05).

Conclusions: Compared with PGY-3 residents, research residents report less satisfaction with important aspects of training, suggesting this is a vulnerable stage. Interventions could be targeted to facilitate support and better integration into the mainstream of surgical education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Specialties, Surgical / education