Attitudes and factors contributing to attrition in Canadian surgical specialty residency programs

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Abstract

Background

We recently studied attrition in Canadian general surgical programs; however, there are no data on whether residents enrolled in other surgical residencies harbour the same intents as their general surgical peers. We sought to determine how many residents in surgical disciplines in Canada consider leaving their programs and why.

Methods

An anonymous survey was administered to all residents in 9 surgical disciplines in Canada. Significance of association was determined using the Pearson χ2 test. The Canadian Post-MD Education Registry (CAPER) website was used to calculate the response rate.

Results

We received 523 responses (27.6% response rate). Of these respondents, 140 (26.8%) were either “somewhat” or “seriously” considering leaving their program. Residents wanting to pursue additional fellowship training and those aspiring to an academic career were significantly less likely to be considering changing specialties (p = 0.003 and p = 0.005, respectively). Poor work–life balance and fear of unemployment/underemployment were the top reasons why residents would change specialty (55.5% and 40.8%, respectively), although the reasons cited were not significantly different between those considering changing and those who were not (p = 0.64). Residents who were considering changing programs were significantly less likely to enjoy their work and more likely to cite having already invested too much time to change as a reason for continuing (p < 0.001).

Conclusion

More than one-quarter of residents in surgical training programs in Canada harbour desires to abandon their surgical careers, primarily because of unsatisfactory work–life balance and limited employment prospects. Efforts to educate prospective residents about the reality of the surgical lifestyle and to optimize employment prospects may improve completion rates.

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