ABSTRACT: Are Surgeons Born or Made? A Comparison of Personality Traits and Learning Styles Between Surgical Trainees and Medical Students.
Medical students and surgical trainees differ considerably in both their preferential learning styles and personality traits. This study compares the personality profiles and learning styles of surgical trainees with a cohort of medical students specifically intent on pursuing a surgical career.
A cross-sectional study was conducted contrasting surgical trainees with medical students specifying surgical career intent. The 50-item International Personality Item Pool Big-Five Factor Marker (FFM) questionnaire was used to score 5 personality domains (extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience, and neuroticism). The 24-item Learning Style Inventory (LSI) Questionnaire was used to determine the preferential learning styles (visual, auditory, or tactile). χ(2) Analysis and independent samples t-test were used to compare LSI and FFM scores, respectively.
Surgical trainees from several UK surgical centers were contrasted to undergraduate medical students.
A total of 53 medical students who had specifically declared desire to pursue a surgical career and were currently undertaking an undergraduate intercalated degree in surgical sciences were included and contrasted to 37 UK core surgical trainees (postgraduate years 3-4).
The LSI questionnaire was completed by 53 students and 37 trainees. FFM questionnaire was completed by 29 medical students and 34 trainees. No significant difference for learning styles preference was detected between the 2 groups (p = 0.139), with the visual modality being the preferred learning style for both students and trainees (69.8% and 54.1%, respectively). Neuroticism was the only personality trait to differ significantly between the 2 groups, with medical students scoring significantly higher than trainees (2.9 vs. 2.6, p = 0.03).
Medical students intent on pursuing a surgical career exhibit similar personality traits and learning styles to surgical trainees, with both groups preferring the visual learning modality. These findings facilitate future research into potential ways of improving both the training and selection of students and junior trainees onto residency programs.