Background: The development of autonomy is a key component of residency training. Although studies have examined levels of graduated autonomy within specialties, they have not, to our knowledge, examined how residents' perceptions of autonomy differ among specialties.
Objective: We surveyed residents in internal medicine-pediatrics programs to determine their perceptions of the autonomy they experienced when they were serving on internal medicine (IM) and pediatrics inpatient rotations.
Methods: In 2012, we administered a 24-item online survey to residents in 36 internal medicine-pediatrics programs.
Results: Of 698 eligible residents, 143 (20.5%) participated. Participants were distributed equally among all 4 postgraduate years and between IM and pediatrics rotations. Participants were more likely to agree they experienced an appropriate level of autonomy when they were on IM rotations than when they were on pediatrics rotations (97.9% versus 34.3%, P < .001), were more likely to report experiencing frustration with too little oversight while on IM rotations (32.9% versus 2.2%, P < .001), and were more likely to report experiencing frustration with too much oversight while on pediatrics rotations (48.2% versus 0.7%, P < .001). Responses to items that described frequently encountered circumstances and hypothetical medical cases indicated participants were more likely to feel anxiety and discomfort with autonomous decision making while on pediatrics rotations.
Conclusions: Residents in internal medicine-pediatrics programs perceive significant differences in the autonomy they experience during IM and pediatrics rotations. This may influence their confidence in medical decision making.