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

David Wainwright* (Corresponding Author), Michael Harris, Elaine Wainwright

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number702
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Medical Education
Early online date4 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Data Availability Statement

We are concerned that were we to store the anonymised data in a public access depository, there is material which would enable individuals to be identified by their family, friends and colleagues. We are willing to make the anonymised transcripts available to researchers from legitimate research establishments on condition that they are not published in their entirety. Please direct requests to the corresponding author.


  • Careers in surgery
  • Gender
  • Professional identity


Dive into the research topics of 'Trainee doctors’ perceptions of the surgeon stereotype and its impact on professional identification: a qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this