Association of Time to Attrition in Surgical Residency With Individual Resident and Programmatic Factors

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Abstract

Importance

Attrition in general surgery residency remains high, and attrition that occurs in the later years is the most worrisome. Although several studies have retrospectively investigated the timing of attrition, no study to date has prospectively evaluated a national cohort of residents to understand which residents are at risk for attrition and at what point during residency.

Objective

To prospectively evaluate individual resident and programmatic factors associated with the timing of attrition during general surgery residency.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This longitudinal, national cohort study administered a survey to all categorical general surgery interns from the class of 2007-2008 during their first 30 days of residency and linked the data with 9-year follow-up data assessing program completion. Data were collected from June 1, 2007, through June 30, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Kaplan-Meier curves evaluating time to attrition during the 9 years after the start of residency.

Results

Among our sample of 836 residents (306 women [36.6%] and 528 men [63.2%]; gender unknown in 2), cumulative survival analysis demonstrated overall attrition for the cohort of 20.8% (n = 164). Attrition was highest in the first postgraduate year (67.6% [n = 111]; absolute rate, 13.3%) but continued during the next 6 years, albeit at a lower rate. Beginning in the first year, survival analysis demonstrated higher attrition among Hispanic compared with non-Hispanic residents (21.1% vs 12.4%; P = .04) and at military programs compared with academic or community programs after year 1 (32.3% vs 11.0% or 13.5%; P = .01). Beginning in year 4 of residency, higher attrition was encountered among women compared with men (23.3% vs 17.4%; P = .05); at year 5, at large compared with small programs (26.0% vs 18.4%; P = .04). Race and program location were not associated with attrition.

Conclusions and Relevance

Although attrition was highest during the internship year, late attrition persists, particularly among women and among residents in large programs. These results provide a framework for timing of interventions in graduate surgical training that target residents most at risk for late attrition.

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