Hopes, fears, and rumors: Medical students and the general surgery clerkship

Am J Surg. 2021 Oct;222(4):687-691. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2021.06.013. Epub 2021 Jun 26.


Background: Surgical educators have worked to manage the hopes and fears as well as the recurring rumors that plague the surgical clerkship. It is not known if this has effected change over time.

Methods: We gathered information on hopes, fears, and rumors during our clerkship orientations from 2017 to 2019 using anonymous polling software with real-time feedback. We analyzed 468 responses using qualitative content analysis.

Results: Students hoped for practical skills acquisition, self-improvement, and understanding the surgical profession. They feared lack of time and knowledge, burnout, mistreatment, and subjective evaluation. Rumors included negative perceptions of surgical culture work environment, and fear of mistreatment despite clerkship changes intended to allay these fears.

Conclusion: Students starting surgery clerkships hope to gain surgical and clinical skills but concerns about surgical culture and mistreatment appear to remain unchanged despite structural improvements in the clerkship experience. Surgeons should look beyond the clerkship itself to change these perceptions.

Keywords: Medical education; Mistreatment; Surgical culture.