Why do women leave surgical training?

  • Mary Corcoran
  • Noticias Médicas Univadis
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Although women are under-represented in surgery and leave surgical training in higher proportions than men, the reasons for this are not fully understood. 

To try to gain a better understanding of this, researchers in Australia interviewed 12 women who had chosen to leave this area about their decision. 

The study confirmed a number of reasons why women leave surgical training that have already been described in previous research including: 

  • Long working hours
  • Unpredictable lifestyle
  • Lack of learning opportunities
  • Fatigue and sleep deprivation
  • Bullying 
  • Impact of pregnancy and childbirth and childrearing duties 
  • Impact on relationships 
  • Insufficient role models 
  • Sexism and discrimination 
  • Sexual harassment and assault 

The study also identified six new contributing factors:

  • Inaccessibility of leave
  • A distinction between valid and invalid reasons for leave
  • Poor mental health
  • Absence of interactions with other women in the surgery section and other supports
  • Fear of repercussion
  • Insufficient pathways for independent and specific support

The authors said the relationships between these factors were "complex and sometimes paradoxical" and that to address the problem, there is a need to “move beyond single-factor interventions and work in more complex, multifactorial, and contextual ways to improve institutional environments and support women to stay in the surgical profession."

The findings are published in the Lancet.