What is Involved in a General Surgery Residency?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2019
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A general surgery residency is a training period for doctors that want to become surgeons. This program is usually completed after successfully graduating from medical school, and may last from three to seven years. A general surgery residency allows doctors to train in all major areas of surgery; many go on to complete specialty training in a particular area after a residency is complete.

Entrance into a general surgery residency program is often extremely competitive. In order to qualify, applicants must have excellent grades from medical schools, as well as satisfactory scores on required medical exams. Fortunately, there are hundreds or even thousands of hospitals and universities that offer surgery residencies, so the chances of finding an acceptable match can be quite good.

In the first year of most general surgery residency programs, a doctor is usually referred to as an intern. He or she spends the year learning about operating procedure, including both pre-operative and post-operative care, as well as a variety of operating techniques and skills. Training may often include experience in handling administrative tasks, such as writing and reading patient charts, taking notes for attending physicians, and understanding the administrative flow of a hospital. Interns are often in the charge of more experienced residents, who are largely responsible for their initial training.


Each following year of residency, a doctor will gain more and more responsibility and opportunity within the program. Introduced tasks include caring for patients in intensive care facilities, participating in surgeries, working in trauma or emergency rooms, and eventually teaching their own interns. Along the way, resident surgeons often gain a clear picture of which area they want to specialize in after the residency is completed. Many will attempt to work with the established surgeons in their chosen field, to gain advanced skills and a better understanding of the practice as a whole.

Regardless of where a general surgery residency is completed, the course of study is intensely exhausting on both mental and physical levels. Doctors frequently work multi-day shifts, some not even able to leave the hospital to sleep. As new doctors, they may be treated with suspicion and even contempt by more experienced physicians, hospital professionals, and even patients. The stressful atmosphere of a hospital itself, with life and death constantly coursing through the halls, can be enough to cause extreme emotional stress. According to some studies, residents suffer a high risk of certain psychological disorders, including depression.



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