What Do Surgical Nurses Know About Surgical Residents?

Lisa L. Schlitzkus, Steven C. Agle, Michael M. McNally, Kimberly D. Schenarts, Paul J. Schenarts

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: A fundamental premise of establishing collaborative relationships between residents and nurses is a basic understanding of the attributes of each group. The intent of this study was to determine what surgical nurses know about surgical residents. Design: A piloted survey tool was administered to a cross-section of nurses working in 3 surgical intensive care units, a surgical intermediate unit, and 2 general surgical floors. Surgical residents completed the same survey tool. The percentage of residents giving the most frequent response was compared with the percentage of nurses giving the same response. Setting: A university, teaching hospital. Participants: One hundred twenty-four of 129 surgical nurses and 24 of 25 surgical residents who completed the survey tool. Results: The response rate for nurses on the 2 survey days was 94%, or 54% of all surgical nurses employed by the hospital, and 96% for residents. The nurses surveyed were equally distributed between the units. Ninety-nine percent of nurses did not have a surgical resident as a significant other, 55% of nurses had greater than 5 years experience, and 95% were licensed registered nurses. Seventy-eight percent of nurses correctly indicated that a medical doctorate is the highest degree required to start residency (p = 0.01), but only 57% accurately identified the length of surgical residency (p = 0.02). Nurses perceived residents devoted less time to patient care (p < 0.01) and more time to studying (p < 0.01). Forty percent of nurses do not think interns are legally physicians (p < 0.01) or hold a medical license (p < 0.01). Forty percent of nurses are aware of the 80-hour work week restriction (p < 0.01). Eighteen percent of nurses have the perception that residents are not allowed to perform bedside procedures without an attending physician present (p = 0.03), while 56% have the perception that residents are not allowed to perform any part of an operation without an attending physician (p < 0.01). There is a misperception among 32% of nurses that residents pay tuition for residency (p < 0.01), while only 52% accurately identified the range of a resident's salary (p = 0.01) and 11% the amount of resident debt (p < 0.01). Conclusions: Despite the importance of the collaborative relationship in surgical patient care, surgical nurses have a limited understanding of surgical residents. Educating nurses about the education, roles, and responsibilities of surgical residents might improve collaborative relationships and ultimately patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-391
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • ACGME competencies
  • Interpersonal Skills and Communication
  • Professionalism
  • Systems-Based Practice
  • nursing
  • resident evaluation
  • surgical education
  • surgical residents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'What Do Surgical Nurses Know About Surgical Residents?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this