Trainee doctors’ perceptions of the surgeon stereotype and its impact on professional identification: a qualitative study

  • David Wainwright (Creator)
  • Michael Harris (University of Bern, Bath Spa University) (Creator)
  • Elaine Wainwright (Creator)



Abstract Background The demography of the medical profession is changing as more women join the workforce. Traditional assumptions about the personal qualities required to be a successful surgeon may change as more women join the specialty. While exploring the attitudes and beliefs of doctors in their second ‘Foundation’ year of post-graduate training (FY2) about their choice of specialty, evidence emerged about how the stereotype of the surgeon influences professional identification and beliefs about person-specialty fit. Methods Qualitative telephone interviews with 24 FY2 doctors, 17 women and 7 men, in South-West England. Results Many participants reported exposure to stereotypes about the personal qualities desirable in a surgeon. Senior doctors and other trainees were the primary source of these stereotypical views. Experience on surgical placements could either reinforce stereotypes or challenge them, the latter particularly where senior surgeons provided positive role models. As more women enter the surgical specialties, they are increasingly challenging the traditional stereotype and sub-culture. Conclusion Gendered stereotypes about surgical roles persist, and for some this can hinder professional identification with the role. Positive role models and mentoring can encourage and support women who are interested a surgical career to identify with the role, but there is a need for a broader debate encompassing job redesign and surgical identities.
Date made available2022

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