Perceptions and expectations of cardiothoracic residents and attending surgeons

J Surg Res. 2012 Oct;177(2):e45-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2012.03.063. Epub 2012 Apr 17.


Background: With our specialty going through a critical phase of re-evaluation and adaptation, our aim was to evaluate and compare the perceptions and expectations among residents and faculty regarding cardiothoracic training.

Methods: A content-validated, 13-item survey was distributed electronically from August 14 to August 24, 2010 to 728 cardiothoracic surgery residents, recent program graduates (on or after June 2006), cardiothoracic surgery chairpersons, and program directors identified in the Cardiothoracic Surgery Network database.

Results: The response rate was 34% (244 of 728). Of the respondents, 76% reported being "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their program. Faculty willingness to teach in the operating room was ranked as the most valuable aspect of a training program, and strict adherence to the 80-h work week ranked as least valuable. Most respondents believed that a resident performing at least 75% of a case was acceptable for low-complexity procedures (92% of residents, 77% of attending physicians) and at least 25% for high-complexity procedures (91% of residents, 73% of attending physicians). However, residents wanted to perform more of the operations than the attending physicians considered necessary (P < 0.05). Finally, 63% of respondents (73% of residents, 56% of attending physicians) indicated that the increasing scrutiny of outcomes has adversely affected training. Other differences between the residents' and attending physicians' perceptions regarded the importance of participation in preoperative and postoperative care, what constitutes "scut work," and the value of auxiliary staff.

Conclusions: Reconciling residents' expectations with the realities of duty-hour restrictions and high-stakes procedures will require the development of novel educational approaches to improve resident learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thoracic Surgery / education*
  • Thoracic Surgery / statistics & numerical data