The surgical personality: does it exist?

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION

This study aims to answer the question of whether surgeons have different personalities to non-surgeons.

METHODS

Members of the Royal College of Surgeons of England were sent an email survey containing 50 standard questions from the Five Factor personality assessment, which scores each respondent in five key personality traits (conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, extroversion). Results were analysed and compared with a population-level data set from a survey conducted by the BBC.

RESULTS

Five hundred and ninety-nine surgeons completed the survey. Analysis showed that surgeons scored significantly higher for conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness and neuroticism than non-surgeons (P < 0.05). Further analysis showed that female surgeons scored higher in openness and extroversion relative to the population average and that surgeons become more prone to neuroticism than non-surgeons as they age.

CONCLUSIONS

The results support the notion of a surgical personality, as well as indicating that female surgeons have significantly different personality profiles from male surgeons, and that age affects surgeons’ personalities in different ways to non-surgeons.

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