J Surg Educ 2019 Jul - Aug;76(4):916-923. Epub 2019 Jan 28.
Department of General Surgery, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Objective: Effective mentorship may be an opportunity to mitigate career de-prioritization, improve stress management, and bolster professional growth. Relatively few studies address specific challenges that occur for general surgery trainees. We conducted a focus group-based investigation to determine facilitators/barriers to effective mentorship among general surgery residents, who are intending to pursue an academic career.
Design: A semistructured focus group study was conducted to explore residents' attitudes and experiences regarding (1) needs for mentorship, (2) barriers to identifying mentors, and (3) characteristics of successful mentor-mentee interactions. Subjects self-identified and were characterized as either "Mentored" or "Nonmentored." Transcriptions were independently reviewed by 3 coders. Inter-rater reliability between the coders was evaluated by calculating Cohen's kappa for each coded item.
Setting: General surgery residents from 2 academic tertiary hospitals, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and University of Washington, participated.
Participants: Thirty-four general surgery trainees were divided into 8 focus groups.
Results: There were no gender-based differences in mentoring needs among residents. Barriers to establishing a relationship with a mentor, such as lack of exposure to faculty, and time and determination on the part of both mentor and mentee, were exacerbated by aspects of surgical culture including gender dynamics, criticism, and hierarchy. Successful relationships between mentee and mentor were perceived to require personal/professional compatibility and a feeling that the mentor is invested in the mentee, while conflicts of interest and neglect detracted from a successful relationship.
Conclusions: Our investigations demonstrate the importance of surgical hierarchy and culture in facilitating interpersonal interactions with potential mentors. Further studies will be necessary to determine how best to address these barriers.