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J Am Coll Surg. 2013 Mar;216(3):461-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2012.11.005. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

Surgical residency and attrition: defining the individual and programmatic factors predictive of trainee losses.

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Department of Surgery, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.



Voluntary resident attrition remains problematic despite recent changes in postgraduate general surgery training, including reduction of work hours.


We conducted a prospective study of all postgraduate year (PGY)-1 and -2 trainees on the 2008 American Board of Surgery resident roster (ABS-RR) who completed the National Study of Expectations and Attitudes of Residents in Surgery (NEARS) survey after the American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination (ABSITE) in 2008 or 2009.


Among 2,222 PGY-1 and -2 residents on the 2008 ABS-RR, 2,033 completed the NEARS survey in 2008 or 2009 (91.5%). The only demographic or programmatic variables associated with voluntary attrition on univariate analysis were PGY-1 status (9.4% risk vs 4.5% risk for PGY-2, p < 0.001) and program location (p = 0.03). Response differences (p < 0.01) were noted in 23 survey items. In multivariate modeling, PGY-2 status was protective against voluntary attrition (p < 0.001, hazard ratio [HR] 0.41), while programs located outside of the South (Northeast: p = 0.006, HR 2.39; Midwest: p = 0.01, HR 2.37; West: p = 0.10, HR 1.76) were associated with higher attrition. The attrition group more frequently reported that they had considered leaving training (p < 0.001, HR 2.59), that the personal cost of training was too great (p < 0.001, HR 2.89), that they were dissatisfied with their operative experience (p = 0.002, HR 1.89), and that they were not committed to completing their training (p < 0.001, HR 3.96). Using the estimated regression coefficient for each variable in the multivariate models, we calculated a risk score for individual residents; these scores were used to construct covariate-adjusted survivorship functions.


Resident attitudes, PGY-1 status, and program location are most frequently associated with voluntary attrition. Our risk score calculation represents a novel potential tool for programs to quantify deficiencies in the training experience of residents, and develop targeted strategies to limit disaffection and improve resident retention.

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