Factors Associated with Residency and Career Dissatisfaction in Childbearing Surgical Residents

Erika L. Rangel, Heather Lyu, Adil H. Haider, Manuel Castillo-Angeles, Gerard M. Doherty, Douglas S. Smink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


Importance: Previous work shows women who have children during surgical residency face difficulty balancing childbearing with training, which negatively affects residency and career satisfaction. Little is known about the factors that drive professional discontent. Objective: To determine factors associated with professional dissatisfaction for childbearing residents. Design, Setting, and Participants: Self-administered survey questionnaire electronically distributed through the Association of Program Directors in Surgery, the Association of Women Surgeons, and targeted Twitter and Facebook platforms. The survey was distributed in January 2017 to surgeons who delivered at least 1 child during a US general surgery residency and was available online for 4 weeks. Main Outcomes and Measures: Respondents were reported to be dissatisfied with their residency if they indicated agreement that they considered leaving residency owing to challenges surrounding childbearing (considered leaving). Respondents were reported to be unhappy with their career if they indicated agreement with statements that (1) given an opportunity to revisit their job choice, they would choose a nonsurgical career more accommodating of motherhood (revisit career choice) or (2) they would advise a female medical student against a surgical career owing to difficulties balancing motherhood with the profession (advise against surgery). Logistic regression was used to determine predictors of agreement with each of the 3 statements of professional dissatisfaction. Results: In total, 347 women responded to the survey and reported 452 pregnancies, and the mean (SD) age was 30.5 (2.7) years. One hundred seventy-nine respondents (51.6%) agreed with at least 1 statement of residency or career dissatisfaction. Lack of a formal maternity leave policy was associated with "considered leaving" (odds ratio [OR], 1.83; 95% CI, 1.07-3.10). Perception of stigma during pregnancy was associated with "revisit career choice" (OR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.01-3.19). Changing fellowship plans owing to perceived difficulty balancing motherhood with the originally chosen subspecialty was associated with all 3 markers of residency and career dissatisfaction ("considered leaving" OR, 2.68; 95% CI, 1.30-5.56; "revisit career choice" OR, 2.23; 95% CI, 1.13-4.43; and "advise against surgery" OR, 2.44; 95% CI, 1.23-4.84). Conclusions and Relevance: Surgery residents who perceived stigma during pregnancy, did not have a formal institutional maternity leave policy, or altered their fellowship training plans because of challenges of childbearing expressed greater professional dissatisfaction. Mentorship in subspecialty selection and work-life integration, interventions to reduce workplace bias, and identification of obstacles to establishment of maternity leave policies are needed to enhance professional fulfillment for childbearing residents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1004-1011
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Surgery
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


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