Early Autonomy May Contribute to an Increase in the General Surgical Workforce

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BACKGROUND: Nationally, 85% of general surgery graduates pursue fellowships reducing the incoming general surgical workforce with a predicted shortage of 41,000 general surgeons by 2025. In recent studies, the lack of confidence appears to be a major factor contributing to resident decision to pursue fellowship. The aim of the study was to determine if a hybrid academic/community program contributes to early autonomy and the decision to pursue fellowship in general surgery graduates. METHODS: We evaluated the level of confidence, level of autonomy, and decision to pursue fellowship at a hybrid academic/community program that historically graduates 70% of their residents into general surgery practice through an anonymous survey. Participants responded using Likert scales along with simple polar questions. RESULTS: Most current residents (90%) reported, upon graduation, that they feel very confident (45%) or fairly confident (45%) performing major cases independently. Most attendings (64%) reported that during their third year of residency, they began performing the majority (more than 75%) of their major cases as surgeon junior while current residents (55%) reported they were performing the majority as a second-year resident. Fifty-five percent of residents felt that confidence played a role in the decision to pursue fellowship. Thirty-three percent of our current chief residents and only 34% of the total general surgery residents plan to pursue fellowships. Conclusions: Our study showed that our residents appear to have earlier levels of autonomy than that experienced by our practicing surgeons when they were residents. Confidence continues to play a role in the decision to pursue fellowship and overall our residents are confident in technical skills at graduation. Our unique program continues to graduate the majority of our surgical residents into successful general surgery practice.