A National Mixed-Methods Evaluation of Preparedness for General Surgery Residency and the Association with Resident Burnout

Kathryn E. Engelhardt, Karl Y. Bilimoria, Julie K. Johnson, D. Brock Hewitt, Ryan J. Ellis, Yue Yung Hu, Jeanette W. Chung, Lindsey Kreutzer, Remi Love, Eddie Blay, David D. Odell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Importance: Differences in medical school experiences may affect how prepared residents feel themselves to be as they enter general surgery residency and may contribute to resident burnout. Objectives: To assess preparedness for surgical residency, to identify factors associated with preparedness, to examine the association between preparedness and burnout, and to explore resident and faculty perspectives on resident preparedness. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study used convergent mixed-methods analysis of data from a survey of US general surgery residents delivered at the time of the 2017 American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination (January 26 to 31, 2017) in conjunction with qualitative interviews of residents and program directors conducted as part of the Flexibility in Duty Hour Requirements for Surgical Trainees (FIRST) trial. A total of 262 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-approved US general surgery residency programs participated. Survey data were collected from 3693 postgraduate year (PGY) 1 and PGY2 surgical residents (response rate, 99%) and 98 interviews were conducted with residents and faculty from September 1 to December 15, 2018. Data were analyzed from June 1, 2017, to February 15, 2018. Main Outcomes and Measures: Hierarchical regression models were developed to examine factors associated with preparedness and to assess the association between preparedness and resident burnout. Qualitative interviews were conducted to identify themes associated with preparation for residency. Results: Of the 3693 PGY1 and PGY2 residents who participated (2258 male [61.1%]), 1775 (48.1%) reported feeling unprepared for residency. Approximately half of surgery residents took overnight call infrequently (≤2 per month) during their core medical student clerkship (1904 [51.6%]) or their subinternship (1600 [43.3%]); 524 (14.2%) took no call during their core clerkship. In multivariable analysis, residents were more likely to report feeling unprepared for residency if they were female (odds ratio [OR], 1.34; 95% CI, 1.15-1.57) or did not take call as a medical student (OR for 0 vs >4 calls, 2.72; 95% CI, 2.10-3.52). Residents who did not complete a subinternship were less likely to report feeling prepared for residency (OR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.48-0.96). Feeling adequately prepared for residency was associated with a nearly 2-fold lower risk of experiencing burnout symptoms (OR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.48-0.68). In interviews, the dominant themes associated with preparedness included the following: (1) various regulations limit the medical school experience, (2) overnight call facilitates preparation and selection of a specialty compatible with their preferences, and (3) adequate perceptions of residency improve expectations, resulting in improved preparedness, lower burnout rates, and lower risk of attrition. Conclusions and Relevance: In this cross-sectional study, the perception of feeling unprepared was associated with inadequate exposure to resident responsibilities while in medical school. These findings suggest that effective preparation of medical students for residency may result in lower rates of subsequent burnout.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-859
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA surgery
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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