Imposter Syndrome in Surgical Trainees: Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale Assessment in General Surgery Residents

Anuradha R. Bhama, Ethan M. Ritz, Rahul J. Anand, Edward D. Auyang, Jeremy Lipman, Jacob A. Greenberg, Muneera R. Kapadia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Imposter syndrome occurs when high-achieving individuals have a pervasive sense of self-doubt combined with fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite objective measures of success. This threatens mental health and well-being. The prevalence and severity of imposter syndrome has not been studied among general surgery residents on a large scale. The primary outcomes of this study were the prevalence and severity of imposter syndrome. Study Design: The Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale was administered to residents at 6 academic general surgery residency programs. Multivariable analysis was performed to identify significant differences among groups and predictive characteristics of imposter syndrome. Results: One hundred and forty-four residents completed the assessment (response rate 46.6%; 47.2% were male). Only 22.9% had “none to mild” or “moderate” imposter syndrome. A majority (76%) had “significant” or “severe” imposter syndrome. There were no significant differences in mean scores among male and female residents (p = 0.69). White residents had a mean score of 71.3 and non-White residents had a mean score of 68.3 (p = 0.24). There was no significant difference between PGY1 to PGY5 or research residents (p = 0.72). There were no significant differences based on US Medical Licensing Examination or American Board of Surgery In-Service Training Examination scores (p = 0.18 and p = 0.37, respectively). Conclusions: Imposter syndrome is prevalent among general surgery residents, with 76% of residents reporting either significant or severe imposter syndrome. There were no predictive characteristics based on demographics or academic achievement, suggesting that there is something either inherent to those choosing general surgery training or the general surgery training culture that leads to such substantive levels of imposter syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-638
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Volume233
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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