A recent survey of general surgery residents was published online by the Journal of the American College of Surgeons yesterday. More than 4200 residents who took the 2008 American Board of Surgery In-ServiceTraining Exam (ABSITE) responded. This accounts for 82% of all categorical (five-year) general surgery trainees. The authors of the paper represented the American Board of Surgery, Yale University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Compared to those in university programs, residents in community hospital programs had more positive responses to questions about satisfaction with their operative experience, didactic teaching and support from their programs.
But a significant number (27%) of all residents surveyed worried that they would not feel confident to perform surgery by themselves when they finished training. A similar number were not satisfied with their operative experience. Almost half of all residents were not satisfied with the level of didactic teaching being offered.
Something is wrong if over 25% of surgical residents are uncertain that they will be able to operate independently when they finish training. And just how does one identify those surgeons? Don’t say, “Check to see if they’re board-certified.” The boards don’t test operative skill.
Not long ago, I blogged about the coming shortage of general surgeons. The paper discussed above would indicate that expanding existing general surgery residency programs may not be the answer. If a quarter of all residents feel they are not getting enough operative experience and are not confident in their skills, how can programs be expanded?