Resident Attrition in Plastic Surgery: A National Survey of Plastic Surgery Program Directors

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Attrition in plastic surgery is poorly characterized in the literature with previous data indicating that independent residents may have a higher rate of voluntary attrition with integrated residents having a higher rate of involuntary attrition. The aim of this study is to identify risk factors, note differences between pathways, and provide insight into resident attrition from plastic surgery residencies.


An institutional review board–approved anonymous, multiple-choice and short answer, online survey regarding resident attrition was sent to all plastic surgery program directors (PDs) in the United States focusing from 2003 to 2013. Outcomes measured included demographics of the program and attritional resident, timing and reasons for attrition, and possibility of preventing attrition.


Thirty-three (35%) of 95 PDs responded. Average attrition rates were calculated at 2.15% for independent and 0.85% for integrated programs. Risk factors for attrition included being single, divorced, male, and having no dependents. One hundred percent of independent residents left by year 2, and 86% of integrated residents left by year 4. Lifestyle and loss of interest were most sited reasons for attrition. Most independent residents returned to their original field of training, whereas integrated residents were more likely to transfer to another integrated program. Only 17% of PDs believed attrition could have been prevented.


Approximately 3.0% of all plastic surgery residents underwent attrition. Being single, male, divorced, or having no dependents increases the risk of attrition in plastic surgery residencies. This is the first study to demonstrate potential risks factors for plastic surgery residents undergoing attrition.

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