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How to Boost Interest for Careers in General Surgery

Medical students are increasingly not pursuing careers as general surgeons.  Why might this be? A study conducted by Peel, Shlachta, and Alkhamesi (2018) suggests perceived and real gender discrimination discourages females from entering this line of work as general surgeons.  Other deterrents to pursue a career as a general surgeon include a lack of exposure to surgery in general medical education which would encourage medical students to explore an interest in general surgery, and the lack of work-life balance that a career as a general surgeon enables ( Peel, Shlachta, & Alkhamesi, 2018).

This poses a significant problem to the U.S. population.  General population growth is outpacing the population growth of general surgeons.  According to updated census projections, Ellison, Pawlik, Way, Satiani, and Williams (2018) found that as the population is expected to increase by 19 million by 2050, there will be a general surgical workforce shortage in 2050 of 7,047 (21% decline) based on American Board of Surgery certificates; 4,917(15% decline) based on General Surgery Residency completions; and 5,037 (15% decline) based on combined American Board of Surgery and American Osteopathic Association certificates.

Puls (2018) explains that soon, it may be that individuals in need of immediate surgical procedures will not be able to gain access to a general surgeon in his/her area and this will lead to an increasing rate of preventable fatalities.  Rural communities are especially hard hit by the lack of general surgeons as most general surgeons practice in more urban care facilities (Puls, 2018).

So, how can we work to boost interest for careers in general surgery?

Address the biggest deterrents to pursuing a career as a general surgeon through trainings!

1. Create a one-day intensive course for medical students to increase interest in a career as a general surgeon and improve surgical skills  

  • Seo, Eom, Kim, Kim, Song, and Song (2017) created a one-day intensive surgical skill training program for medical students that resulted in a significant improvement in  surgical-suturing skills and a significant increase of interest in a surgical career.
  • The training program consisted of the following:
    • Hands-on training sessions for basic surgical-suturing techniques (e.g., simple and vertical mattress suturing of artificial skin, surgical tie, and animal-intestinal anastomosis)
    • Hybrid simulation sessions for advanced surgical procedures (i.e. laparoscopic and robot-assisted surgery)
    • Sessions in a realistic operating room in which there is a tutor taking on the anesthesiologist role and a scrub nurse who assists medical students in scrubbing, gowning, painting, draping, incision and suturing of a mannequin
  • 91 medical students were highly satisfied with participating in this training program, and assessment revealed a significant improvement in surgical-suturing skills and a significant increase of interest in surgical careers (Seo et al., 2017).
  • Widespread utilization of this surgical training program would successfully combat the lack of exposure that medical students have to general surgery and increase interest in careers in general surgery.
  • Ensure long-term learning outcomes from this program via an online learning platform. Create and deliver online assessments with CertCentral: an LMS used in healthcare industry.  Test students on knowledge acquired in one-day intensive training to ensure long-term learning of surgical standardized procedures.

2. Create online trainings that combat gender discrimination that discourages females from becoming general surgeons.  

  • Deliver online trainings aimed at reducing acts of discrimination against women and other minorities via a healthcare LMS. Deliver these trainings in healthcare facilities for doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, resident directors, and any other staff that may work with general surgeons.
  • Create dynamic courses that incorporate videos, images, PowerPoint presentations, and other multimedia files that engage learners and successfully work to create a more welcoming work environment for women as general surgeons.
  • Busy medical professionals that take courses on a cloud-powered online learning platform have access to their trainings 24/7, and can complete said trainings anytime, anywhere at a time most convenient for him or her.  These courses can be completed on smartphone, tablet, and desktop devices–making it easier than ever to improve your work environment today via trainings.


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