Journal of Surgical Simulation 2021; 8: A: 26 - 26

Published: 30 June 2021


Meeting abstract

Special Issue: Survey of perceived barriers to medical students for progression into surgery

S. Toh, O. Jayawardena, H. Fowler, M. Fok and R. Clifford
Corresponding author: Ovin Jayawardena, Countess of Chester Hospital, Chester, UK. Email:


Introduction: Despite increasing numbers of medical school graduates, applications for surgical training is decreasing. We sought to explore the perceived barriers to medical students for progression into surgery.

Methods: An online anonymised SurveyMonkey questionnaire aimed at medical students was disseminated in May 2020. An invitation to complete the survey was advertised through social media.

Results:  In total, 271 responses were obtained, with 95% of respondents being undergraduates, and most respondents identified as female (7.1 female: 2.8 male). Approximately one-fifth (19%) of respondents were considering pursuing a career in surgery. 82% of students had observed in an operating theatre, with 54% of those surveyed agreeing their surgical rotation was a positive experience, 21% neutral, 8% negative.  Most frequent perceived barriers included lack of work-life balance (39%), lengthy post-graduate training pathway (29%), surgical culture (26%) and competitive entry of surgical specialties (22%). Other factors which pose a barrier include limited exposure to surgery (12%), lack of understanding of surgical career pathways (12%) and lack of interest (11%). Notably, gender bias was a barrier for 8% of respondents. Most however felt that they had inadequate exposure to surgery and would appreciate more exposure in the form of surgical skills teaching (85%), theatre experience (67%), surgical placements (59%) and didactic teaching (33%).

Conclusion: Despite 19% of undergraduates considering a career in surgery this does not translate into post-graduate applications. Modifiable barriers such as surgical culture, work-life balance, and surgical exposure need to be addressed in undergraduate and postgraduate training.


undergraduate teaching; medical students; barriers to surgery; career selection

Additional Information

This presentation was given at the SES 2020 online conference, 4 July 2020.