What They May Not Tell You and You May Not Know to Ask: What is Expected of Surgeons in Their First Year of Independent Practice

Heather E. Hoops, Michael R. Burt, Karen Deveney, Karen Brasel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to explore the views and expectations that practicing general surgeons have of their junior colleagues who have recently finished training. DESIGN: This is a qualitative study performed using focus group data consisting of open-ended questions concentrating on essential qualities and attributes of surgeons, behaviors observed in newly-graduated surgeons, and appropriate oversight of junior partners. Qualitative analysis was performed using grounded theory methodology with transcripts coded by 3 independent reviewers. SETTING: Focus groups were conducted with surgeons practicing in rural and urban community settings. PARTICIPANTS: Focus groups consisted of practicing general surgeons throughout the state of Oregon. RESULTS: Focus groups were comprised of 31 practicing surgeons (10 female, 21 male) with varying ages and levels of experience practicing in both rural and urban environments. Qualitative analysis revealed the need for surgeons with strong interpersonal skills, teamwork, judgment, and broad technical skills who possess the appropriate amount of confidence and know when to ask for help. Frequently noted themes identified, included not knowing when to ask for help, overconfidence or underconfidence, as well as lack of judgment and lack of either quality or breadth of technical skill. Current oversight included direct observation, subjective evaluations from staff and colleagues, analysis of outcomes/quality, and either formal or informal mentorship arrangements. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the need for graduating surgeons to be competent in multiple domains. The importance of knowing when to ask for help was stressed by practicing surgeons in both the rural and urban community setting, but is underemphasized in residency training, possibly due to less indirect resident supervision. Surgeons also emphasized the importance of mentorship, as professional growth continues long after completion of training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • competency
  • expectations
  • general surgery
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • new-graduate
  • onboarding
  • Patient Care
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • rural surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education

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