There were no work-hour restrictions when Professor of Surgery Alec C. Beekley, MD, was completing his own surgical training in the 1990s. Back then, he says, it wasn’t uncommon to be at the hospital for days at a time or to work for 30 hours straight.
“The old adage in surgery was, ‘if you’re only on call every other night, you miss half the good cases,’” he says. Today’s surgical residents are training in a different era – one in which there’s greater awareness of the risk of burnout among healthcare providers. There are also restrictions on the number of hours residents can work and be on call.
“Physicians in general need to learn self-care and to protect themselves while going through very challenging training,” says Dr. Beekley, who leads Jefferson Health’s Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery Program at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. “There’s been a recognition that while medicine is a calling, it doesn’t have to cause them mental and physical problems.”
Even with the guardrails now in place, surgery residency still introduces a host of challenges. A new book – with Dr. Beekley as one of four editors – offers practical advice on navigating them. The brainchild of Marc A. Neff, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Surgical Weight Loss at Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital, General Surgery Residency Survival Guide covers basic skills, relationships, finances, academics, clinical duties, leadership and ethics across 49 chapters.Dr. Neff asked Dr. Beekley to oversee most of the academic chapters, including those about identifying a mentor, developing surgical skills, expanding knowledge and preparing for oral boards. He recruited general surgery residents at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to write the chapters and then edited their drafts to ensure consistency and cohesion.
“These faculty and resident collaborations are excellent opportunities for career advancement and professional development,” says Karen A. Chojnacki, MD, who serves as Program Director for the General Surgery Residency.
Contributing authors include Lisa A. Bevilacqua, MD, (a 2023 graduate of our residency program who is now a Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellow at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA), current residents Micaela Collins, Madison Crutcher, Emily Isch, Ryan Lamm, Walker Lyons, Devon Pace, Sourav Podder, William Preston, Uzma Rahman, Darshak Thosani, Brian Till and Lindsay Weil, as well as medical student Shale Mack. “It was fascinating to read some of the residents’ thoughts about their training and contrast it with what I went through,” says Dr. Beekley, who also spent 19 months as an Army surgeon in Iraq and Afghanistan. He previously edited Front Line Surgery: A Practical Approach, a manual for surgeons deploying to war. Another editing project – the third edition of a general surgery oral boards review book – is already in the works, with about 40 chapters to assign.
General Surgery Residency Survival Guide and Front Line Surgery: A Practical Approach are available for purchase at link.springer.com.
"‘General Residency Survival Guide’ Offers Practical Advice,"
Jefferson Surgical Solutions: Vol. 19:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://jdc.jefferson.edu/jss/vol19/iss1/4