In the surgical community, there is concern that general surgery residents are choosing subspecialty training in large numbers because of a crisis in confidence at the end of training. Confidence is an essential quality of surgeons, and recent studies have attempted to quantify and measure it in graduating general surgery residents.
To systematically review the quality of evidence provided and to critically analyze the language used to describe the findings using quantitative methods.
A systematic review of the PubMed indexed literature on general surgery resident confidence was performed in March 2015. A summative table of each study’s hypothesis, definition of confidence, quality using the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument, influence using Web of Science citations, results, and conclusions was created, and qualitative coding was applied to identify emerging themes. No date restrictions were used in the search.
Fifteen survey studies have been performed that measure confidence or readiness to practice. Although 5 studies had neutral or positive conclusions, most studies reported low confidence in general surgery graduates. There are conflicting data about definitions of confidence. The relationships between confidence, autonomy, and competence are varied and complex. Comparisons with the past are frequent.
Conclusions and Relevance
Confidence is difficult to define and measure. Despite limitations, survey studies are used to shape discourse and influence policies. Social and cultural factors influence self-efficacy, and focusing on operative volume and autonomy alone may not address all of the reasons that some residents express concerns about readiness to practice.