Present status of autonomy in surgical residency-a program director's perspective

Mitesh Patel, Jasneet S. Bhullar, Gokulakkrishna Subhas, Vijay Mittal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


As surgery residents graduate and begin their careers as junior attending surgeons, the question of whether a surgeon can complete a case alone still lingers. Allowing autonomy during residency answers this question. The purpose of this study was to gather input from general surgery residency program directors on how they achieve autonomy for residents in their programs. An online survey of 18 questions was sent to all general surgery residency program directors in the United States between April and June of 2013 via e-mail. Questions were asked regarding classification of autonomy, percentage of case completed by the resident independently, and in what area a resident worked with minimal supervision. Of the 202 delivered, 85 program directors were responded (42%). Seventy-eight per cent of programs classified a resident as surgeon junior whether the resident completed more than 50 per cent of the case. Most classified autonomy as either the resident completing >75 per cent of a case (41%) or completing the critical steps of a surgery (41%). Eighty-eight per cent stated that chief residents completed the majority of cases under supervision, whereas only 12 per cent stated the chief had autonomy in the operating room and also acted as teaching assistant. While, 60 per cent stated their chief residents did not work in any area of the hospital independently. Despite differences in how autonomy is defined among programs, most program directors feel that their chief residents do not achieve complete autonomy. Programs should allow their residents to work in a progressive responsibility as they progress into their fourth and fifth years of residency to achieve autonomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)786-790
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

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