What Do Former Residents Say About Their Nondesignated Preliminary Year? A Survey of Prelims’ Experiences in a General Surgery Residency Program

Aashish Rajesh, Malke Asaad, Abhishek Chandra, Mariela Rivera, John M. Stulak, Stephanie F. Heller, David R. Farley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: The nondesignated preliminary (NDP) position in general surgery (GS) offers a 1-year surgical training opportunity for medical school graduates prior to obtaining categorical residency positions. Given that there is little long-term follow-up on the experiences of NDP residents, we sought to determine how NDPs felt about their intern year in GS. DESIGN: A cross-sectional survey of all NDP GS interns from 1993 to 2018. SETTING: Academic, tertiary care center with a large GS residency program (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN). PARTICIPANTS: NDP GS interns (n = 151). RESULTS: Two-hundred and four surveys were emailed and 151 (62%) former NDP residents responded. Exposure to diverse pathology (85%), opportunity to work with experts (85%) and operative experience (72%) were the top 3 positive experiences from the NDP year. The uncertainty of being an NDP resident (78%) and experience compared to categorical counterparts (32%) were cited as the top 2 negative experiences. While 73% (n = 110) considered their NDP year to have laid a “strong” foundation for their future career, most respondents felt that the year was stressful and suggested improving mentoring and support for preliminary residents. Eighty-two percent (n = 124) of respondents stated that, they would be willing to redo their preliminary year. Fifty-four percent (n = 82) of respondents stated that they might have preferred a categorical position at a smaller institution versus a preliminary year. Forty percent of respondents (n = 60) reported fewer interviews and 24% (n = 36) reported a similar number of interviews offered when applying to the Match as a PGY1 prelim resident. CONCLUSIONS: Pursuing the NDP year is difficult, given the uncertainty that looms and the immense pressure to perform well. While the vast majority of our NDPs obtained categorical residency spots following their 1 year of training, feedback from this survey using 25 years of experience suggests that we can and should do more to mentor, support, and assist these residents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-290
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Preliminary residents
  • Professionalism
  • Systems-Based Practice
  • experience
  • general surgery
  • intern
  • residency
  • survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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