Background: General surgery residency may not adequately prepare residents for independent practice. It is unclear; however, if non-ACGME-accredited fellowships are better meeting training needs. The purpose of this mixed-method study was to determine perceived preparedness for practice and to identify gaps in fellowship training.
Methods: A survey was developed using an iterative qualitative methodology based on interviews and focus groups of graduated fellows and program directors. Five central themes emerged and were used as a framework: professional development, job marketability, autonomy, networking, and practice management. The survey was then circulated by email to fellows who graduated from Fellowship Council (FC)-accredited programs within the past 3 years.
Results: Of 201 respondents (response rate = 41 %), 95 and 97 % were highly satisfied with their operative and non-operative experiences; 83 % acquired jobs aligned with their skills and expectations, while 17 % sought additional training after fellowship. Respondents who intended to learn a given procedure felt competent after fellowship to perform 51(85 %) of the 60 procedures listed. They would have liked more experience in advanced therapeutic endoscopy, complex and revisional bariatric surgery, and uncommon laparoscopic procedures such as esophagectomy, adrenalectomy, and common bile duct exploration. Thirty-one percent expressed the desire for more autonomy in the management of complications. Educational gaps existed mostly in areas of coding and billing (42 %), hiring administrative staff (42 %), and managing insurance issues (34 %).
Conclusions: FC-accredited fellowships seem to adequately prepare surgeons for independent practice and bridge training gaps after residency. Graduates are highly satisfied with the individualized training experience and acquire desired jobs aligned with their career goals.
Keywords: Fellowship training; Laparoscopy; Minimally invasive surgery; Practice preparedness; Sub-specialty training; Training needs assessment.