Irish general surgery faces a recruitment crisis with only 87 of 145 (60%) basic surgical training (BST) places filled in 2009. We assessed basic surgical trainees to identify objective, and potentially modifiable, factors that influence ultimate recruitment into a general surgical career.
Candidates commencing BST training during a 5-year period between 2004 and 2008 were included in a quantitative study. In addition a total of 2,536 candidates, representing all those who commenced surgical training in Ireland since 1960 were identified through the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) database and invited to complete an online survey. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS version 15, with p < 0.05 considered significant.
During the 5-year quantitative study period there were 381 BST trainees. Gender was a significant predictor of career choice with women more likely to ultimately choose a nonsurgical career after initial surgical training (p = 0.049). Passing surgical membership examinations (MRCS) also was predictive of remaining in surgery (p = 0.005). Training region was not a significant predictor of ultimate career choice. There were 418 survey respondents. The influence of role models was most commonly cited as influencing candidates in choosing to commence surgical training. Candidates who rated "academic opportunity" (p = 0.023) and "intellectual challenge" (p = 0.047) as factors that influenced their decision to commence surgical training were more likely to ultimately continue their careers in a surgical speciality.
This study describes the career pathway of surgical trainees and confirms the importance of academic achievement in discriminating between candidates applying for surgical training schemes.