How Program Directors Understand General Surgery Resident Wellness

Darci C. Foote, Julie Evans, Tedi Engler, Sophie Gutterman, Alisha Lussiez, Daniela Amortegui, Karl Y. Bilimoria, Julie K. Johnson, Yue Yung Hu, Gurjit Sandhu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Burnout among general surgery residents is prevalent. Guidance on how program directors (PDs) can effectively intervene on general surgery resident wellness is lacking. In this study, we explore how PDs learn about burnout among their residents and support their well-being. Design: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with PDs. Interviews were transcribed and coded by study team dyads who utilized an inductive coding approach, and then reconciled via consensus. Interpretive description was the qualitative analytical method. Setting: Program tours to 15 general surgery programs during the exploratory phase of the SECOND Trial. Participants: Fifteen general surgery PDs. Results: PDs identified the utility of contextual information in understanding resident wellness and implementing program-specific resident wellness initiatives. Three themes relating to PD awareness of resident burnout and well-being were identified: (1) PDs used conventional and novel methods to collect data from multiple information sources, including residents, faculty, staff, institutional representatives, and anonymous parties. (2) These contextualized data inspired the development of responsive strategies to effect programmatic changes that improved education and wellness. (3) Barriers to acquiring and utilizing information exist, requiring careful analysis, creative problem solving, as well as persistence and dedication to resident wellness. Conclusions: Qualitative analysis of general surgery residency PDs yielded insightful knowledge about gathering and responding to information to support resident wellness, including successful strategies and areas of caution. The experience of these PDs can guide others in evaluating their wellness goals and initiatives for their own residents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e48-e60
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • burnout
  • general surgery program director
  • general surgery residency
  • informing wellness interventions
  • qualitative research
  • wellness/well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Surgery


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