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JAMA. 2000 Sep 6;284(9):1099-104.

National survey of internal medicine residency program directors regarding problem residents.

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UCSF-Fresno, Medical Education Program, University Medical Center, 445 S Cedar Ave, Fresno, CA 93702, USA.



Internal medicine residency training is demanding and residents can experience a wide variety of professional and personal difficulties. A problem resident is defined by the American Board of Internal Medicine as "a trainee who demonstrates a significant enough problem that requires intervention by someone of authority." Data are sparse regarding identification and management of such residents.


To gain more understanding of the prevalence, identification, management, and prevention of problem residents within US internal medicine residency programs.


Mailed survey of all 404 internal medicine residency program directors in the United States in October 1999, of whom 298 (74%) responded.


Prevalence of problem residents; type of problems encountered; factors associated with identification and management of problem residents.


The mean point prevalence of problem residents during academic year 1998-1999 was 6.9% (SD, 5.7%; range, 0%-39%), and 94% of programs had problem residents. The most frequently reported difficulties of problem residents were insufficient medical knowledge (48%), poor clinical judgment (44%), and inefficient use of time (44%). Stressors and depression were the most frequently identified underlying problems (42% and 24%, respectively). The most frequent processes by which problem residents were discovered included direct observation (82%) and critical incidents (59%). Chief residents and attending physicians most frequently identified problem residents (84% and 76%, respectively); problem residents rarely identified themselves (2%). Many program directors believed that residents who are from an underrepresented minority, are international medical graduates, or are older than 35 years are at increased risk of being identified as a problem resident (P<.05). Program directors believed that frequent feedback sessions (65%) and an assigned mentor for structured supervision (53%) were the most helpful interventions.


Nearly all internal medicine residency programs in this sample had problem residents, whose presenting characteristics and underlying issues were diverse and complex. JAMA. 2000;284:1099-1104

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