Medical students expressed increased interest in a career in surgery if part-time training options were available, and some residents, fellows and practicing surgeons would be interested in flexible training options as well, according to the results of a web-based survey published in the October issue of Archives of Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Current surgical residencies are a minimum of five years long; new regulations limit workweeks to 80 hours. As many as one-fifth of surgical residents leave their programs before finishing, most often citing lifestyle concerns, according to background information in the article. "Many of today's medical students have more diverse interests and, when they apply for postgraduate training, may prefer specialties in which a more flexible approach to training (i.e., part-time, reduced hours or extended periods of time off) is an option to allow them to integrate other professional and family interests," the authors write. Because about half of medical school graduates are now women, who comprise only 24 percent of general surgery residents, the field must devise methods to attract and retain female surgeons.
Alison R. Saalwachter, M.D., of the University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, and colleagues assessed interest in part-time training options among 482 medical students, 789 surgical residents, 179 surgical fellows and 2,858 fully trained surgeons using a web-based survey. The respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of one to five, how interested they would be in a general surgery training program that lasted longer but featured shorter workweeks (between 40 and 80 hours).
Of the 4,308 physicians and students who responded to the survey, 76 percent were male, and 20 to 30 percent would accept a residency that lasted longer than five years in exchange for the opportunity to train part-time (although few would accept an extension to more than seven years). Thirty-s
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