Background Debate exists within the surgical education community about whether 5 years is sufficient time to train a general surgeon, whether graduating chief residents are confident in their skills, why residents choose to do fellowships, and the scope of general surgery practice today. Study Design In May 2013, a 16-question online survey was sent to every general surgery program director in the United States for dissemination to each graduating chief resident (CR). Results Of the 297 surveys returned, 76% of CRs trained at university programs, 81% trained at 5-year programs, and 28% were going directly into general surgery practice. The 77% of CRs who had done >950 cases were significantly more comfortable than those who had done less (p < 0.0001). Only a few CRs were uncomfortable performing a laparoscopic colectomy (7%) or a colonoscopy (6%), and 80% were comfortable being on call at a Level I trauma center. Compared with other procedures, CRs were most uncomfortable with open common bile duct explorations (27%), pancreaticoduodenectomies (38%), hepatic lobectomies (48%), and esophagectomies (60%) (p < 0.00001). Of those going into fellowships, 67% said they truly had an interest in that specialty and only 7% said it was because they were not confident in their surgical skills. Conclusions Current graduates of general surgery residencies appear to be confident in their skills, including care of the trauma patient. Fellowships are being chosen primarily because of an interest in the subspecialty. General surgery residency no longer provides adequate training in esophageal or hepatopancreatobiliary surgery.
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