General surgery resident remediation and attrition: a multi-institutional study

Arch Surg. 2012 Sep;147(9):829-33. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.2012.1676.


Objective: To determine the rates and predictors of remediation and attrition among general surgery residents.

Design, setting, and participants: Eleven-year retrospective analysis of 348 categorical general surgery residents at 6 West Coast programs.

Main outcome measures: Rates and predictors of remediation and attrition.

Results: Three hundred forty-eight categorical general surgery residents were included. One hundred seven residents (31%) required remediation, of which 27 were remediated more than once. Fifty-five residents (15.8%) left their programs, although only 2 were owing to failed remediation. Remediation was not a predictor of attrition (20% attrition for those remediated vs 15% who were not [P = .40]). Remediation was most frequently initiated owing to a deficiency in medical knowledge (74%). Remediation consisted of monthly meetings with faculty (79%), reading assignments (72%), required conferences (27%), therapy (12%), and repeating a clinical year (6.5%). On univariate analysis, predictors of remediation included receiving honors in the third-year surgery clerkship, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) step 1 and/or step 2, and American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination scores at postgraduate years 1 through 4. On multivariable regression analysis, remediation was associated with receiving honors in surgery (odds ratio, 1.9; P = .01) and USMLE step 1 score (odds ratio, 0.9; P = .02). On univariate analysis, the only predictor of attrition was the American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination score at the postgraduate year 3 level (P = .04).

Conclusions: Almost one third of categorical general surgery residents required remediation during residency, which was most often owing to medical knowledge deficits. Lower USMLE step 1 scores were predictors of the need for remediation. Most remediated residents successfully completed the program. Given the high rates of remediation and the increased educational burden on clinical faculty, medical schools need to focus on better preparing students to enter surgical residency.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Educational Measurement*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Specialties, Surgical / education*