Improving the Intraoperative Educational Experience: Understanding the Role of Confidence in the Resident-Attending Relationship

J Surg Educ. Sep-Oct 2019;76(5):1187-1199. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2019.02.012. Epub 2019 Jun 27.


Objective: With recent changes to graduate medical education, the balance between resident autonomy and need for supervision impacts the educational and training experience of residents. The objective of this study was to understand the relationship between the confidence of attendings and residents and their different perspectives of perceived educational experience and autonomy in the operating room (OR). We hypothesized that the attending's confidence in the resident would be an important factor in improving the educational experience and resident's autonomy in the OR.

Design: Self-reported confidence-rating and operative experience surveys were administered to teams of post-graduate year (PGY 1) through PGY 5 surgical residents and attendings in two temporal sets (Early: Sept-Dec 2015, n = 20; Late: Jan-Apr 2016, n = 22). A second "end-of-year" survey was distributed to residents (n = 9, 37.5% response) and attendings (n = 10, 35% response) asking questions regarding their educational experience and operative experience during the past year.

Setting: Large rural teaching hospital.

Participants: Nineteen general surgery residents (PGY 1 - 5) and 14 general surgery attendings.

Results: Resident perception of confidence differs from junior to senior residents, and that there was discordance between resident's confidence and skill as perceived by attendings, particularly in senior residents. Results also showed that attending's confidence in residents was positively correlated with attending's perceived educational experience in the OR. Residents and attendings both indicated attending's confidence in residents as an important factor in increasing resident autonomy in the OR, thus the attending's confidence in residents could have a positive impact on resident autonomy and educational experience in the OR.

Conclusions: We have demonstrated a relationship between self-confidence for residents and improved confidence from attendings in residents' capabilities. Based on these findings, we would propose identifying methods to expand resident's awareness of surgical situations and develop attending's confidence in residents.

Keywords: Interpersonal and Communication Skills; Medical Knowledge; Perceived skill; Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; Resident autonomy; Self-confidence; Systems-Based Practice.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Report
  • Surgeons / psychology*