Are general surgeons behind the curve when it comes to disaster preparedness training? A survey of general surgery and emergency medicine trainees in the United States by the Eastern Association for the Surgery for Trauma Committee on Disaster Preparedness

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 Sep;73(3):612-7. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e318265c9d9.


Purpose: We think that general surgeons are underprepared to respond to mass casualty disasters. Preparedness education is required in emergency medicine (EM) residencies, yet such requirements are not mandated for general surgery (GS) training programs. We hypothesize that EM residents receive more training, consider themselves better prepared, and are more comfortable responding to disaster events than are GS residents.

Methods: From February to May 2009, the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma-Committee on Disaster Preparedness conducted a Web-based survey cataloging training and preparedness levels in both GS and EM residents. Approximately 3000 surveys were sent. Chi-squared, logistic regression, and basic statistical analyses were performed with SAS.

Results: Eight hindered forty-eight responses were obtained, GS residents represented 60.6% of respondents with 39% EM residents, and four residents did not respond with their specialty (0.4%). We found significant disparities in formal training, perceived preparedness, and comfort levels between resident groups. Experience in real-life disaster response had a significant positive effect on comfort level in all injury categories in both groups (odds ratio, 1.3-4.3, p < 0.005).

Conclusion: This survey confirms that EM residents have more disaster-related training than GS residents. The data suggest that for both groups, comfort and confidence in treating victims were not associated with training but seemed related to previous real-life disaster experience. Given wide variations in the relationship between training and comfort levels and the constraints imposed by the 80-hour workweek, it is critical that we identify and implement the most effective means of training for all residents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Curriculum
  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration*
  • Disasters
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods
  • Emergency Medicine / education*
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Program Evaluation
  • Societies, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States