A majority of general surgery residents seriously consider dropping out of their training, with female residents more likely to consider quitting, a new study in JAMA Surgery reveals.
According to a survey, 58.0% of the 288 respondents "seriously considered leaving training." The most frequent reasons cited for wanting to quit training were sleep deprivation on a specific rotation (50%), an undesirable future lifestyle (47%), and excessive work hours on a specific rotation (41.4%). Survey results were published online July 30 in JAMA Surgery (2014 [doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.935]).
Factors cited that ultimately keep general surgery residents from ending training are support from family or significant other (65%), support from other residents (63.5%), and perception of being better rested (58.9%).
"We believe that our survey findings highlight the fact that a desire to leave training may not be affected by job rigor alone but rather [by] program-specific or rotation-specific factors or dissatisfaction with a future career in general surgery," the report states. Dr. Edward Gifford of the department of surgery, University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center, is the report’s lead author.
In addressing the factors that led to consideration for leaving training, the authors noted that "a potential remedy may be to identify those high work-hour rotations and modify them accordingly," though lifestyle concerns may be harder to address as practicing surgeons "continue to experience high levels of work-home conflicts and burnout."
For women specifically, another issue is "the paucity of female mentors in academic surgery," the report states. "Striving to increase the number of female faculty members within training programs and refining the mentor-mentee relationship with incoming residents may improve the outlook and productivity of future female surgeons."
Overall, while men’s thoughts of quitting decreased as their residency progressed, women’s considerations remained persistent. The report cites previous studies that reported that men and women view general surgery careers differently, including that it was not a welcoming career because of lifestyle challenges, particularly if the woman had children, limited flexible training, and lack of role models.
"These findings may explain why women in our survey continued to consider leaving residency throughout the duration of training and underscores the importance of supporting female residents through the difficult balance between motherhood and professional life," the report states.
The study was approved by the human subjects committee of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.