Disparity between recent graduates’ and experienced surgeons' assessment of time to operative independence

Dawn S. Hui, Richard Lee, Marc R. Moon, Melanie A. Edwards, Mina L. Boutrous, Jessica G.Y. Luc, Richard L. Prager, Keith S. Naunheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: In cardiothoracic surgery, little data exist on the transition to operative independence. We aimed to compare current perceptions of operative autonomy of junior cardiothoracic surgeons and senior colleagues who oversee transitional years. Methods: An anonymous online survey was sent to currently practicing North American board-certified/eligible cardiothoracic surgeons to assess reported time to operative independence and comfort with cardiothoracic operations. The χ2 test, Fisher exact test, and Mann-Whitney U test were used to compare junior surgeons’ self-reported experience to the junior experience as reported by the midcareer and senior surgeons with whom they practiced. Logistic regression was performed to assess factors associated with operative independence. Results: Responses from 436 completed surveys were analyzed (82 juniors and 354 midcareer/seniors). Two hundred fifty-four midcareer/senior surgeons reported on the experience of 531 junior partners. Juniors reported high immediate posttraining comfort with basic cardiac cases and moderate comfort with all other categories. Time to operative independence was significantly different between juniors' self-report and midcareer/senior reports of junior partners except for complex thoracic cases. In multivariable logistic regression analysis, senior, and not midcareer, surgeon status was independently associated with junior operative independence status for cardiac cases and for basic thoracic cases. Conclusions: Most junior surgeons perceived operative independence with basic thoracic, basic cardiac, and complex cardiac operations earlier in their surgical career than that reported by senior colleagues. Objective measures of operative independence may clarify this discrepancy. This study establishes a baseline by which to compare the effects of integrated 6-year programs on operative independence. The discrepant perceptions may have implications for how training programs prepare graduates for the transition to independent practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1925-1932
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • cardiothoracic surgery
  • education research
  • surgical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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