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Readiness of US General Surgery Residents for Independent Practice
Brian George1, Jordan Bohnen2, Reed Williams3, Shari Meyerson4, Mary Schuller4, Andreas Meier*5, Laura Torbeck3, Samuel Mandell6, John Mullen*2, Douglas Smink*7, Jeffrey Chipman*8, Edward Auyan9, Kyla Terhune*10, Paul Wise*11, Jennifer Choi*3, Eugene Foley12, Justin Dimick1, Michael Choti13, Nathanial Soper4, Keith Lillemoe2, Joseph Zwischenberger14, Gary Dunnington3, Debra DaRosa4, Jonathan Fryer4
1University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; 2Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA;3Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN;4Northwestern University, Chicago, IL;5SUNY Upstate, Syracuse, NY;6University of Washington, Seattle, WA;7Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA;8University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN;9University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM;10Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN;11Washington University, Saint Louis, MO;12University of Washington, Madison, WI;13University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, TX;14University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

The American Board of Surgery has designated 133 procedures as being “Core” to the practice of General Surgery (GS). GS residents are expected to be able to safely and independently perform those procedures by the time they graduate. There is growing concern that not all residents achieve that standard.

Attendings in 14 General Surgery programs were trained to use a) the 5-level SIMPL Performance scale to assess resident readiness for independent practice and b) the 4-level Zwisch scale to assess the level of guidance (i.e. autonomy) they provided to residents during specific procedures. Ratings were collected immediately after cases that involved a categorical GS resident. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.

368 attending surgeons rated 393 categorical residents after 5861 procedures. The five most frequently rated Core procedures were laparoscopic cholecystectomy, laparoscopic appendectomy, open inguinal hernia repair, open ventral hernia repair, and exploratory laparotomy. From the first to the last year of training, the proportion of Performance ratings at “Practice Ready” or above for the top five Core procedures (n=1541) increased from 11.8% to 90.0% (p<0.001, 95% CI 7.4-18.1% and 86.2-92.9%, respectively) (Figure 1). For the most frequently rated procedure for residents in their final six months of training (laparoscopic cholecystectomy), the proportion of Performance ratings (n=161) at “Practice Ready” or above was 87.0% (95% CI 80.5-91.1%). For all procedures (n=5861), the proportion of Zwisch ratings indicating meaningful autonomy (“Passive Help” or “Supervision Only”) increased from 16.9% to 67.0% (p<0.001, 95% CI 14.4-19.7% and 64.4-69.5%, respectively) from the first to the last year of training. For the five most frequently rated Core procedures performed by residents in their final 6 months of training (n=342), the proportion of Zwisch ratings indicating near-independence (“Supervision Only”) was 49.1% (n=342, 95% CI 43.7-54.5%) (Figure 2).

US General Surgery residents are generally but not universally ready to independently perform the most common Core procedures by the time they complete residency training. Resident autonomy is also limited. It is unknown if the amount of autonomy residents do achieve is sufficient to ensure readiness for independent practice.

Figure 1: The relationship between resident post-graduate year (PGY) and the distribution of operative Performance ratings. Ratings indicating readiness for independent practice (Pratice-Ready and Exceptional Performance) are plotted above the line in the top panel, with the percentage of ratings in those two top categories above each bar. The total number of ratings for each PGY is shown in the histogram below each distribution.

Figure 2: The distribution of faculty guidance (Zwisch) ratings for trainees in the last 6 months of their residency training while performing one of the five most frequently rated American Board of Surgery-defined “Core” procedures. Ratings indicating meaningful autonomy (Passive Help and Supervision Only) are plotted in the left panel. The total number of ratings for each procedure is shown in the histogram in the right panel.

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