Intended for healthcare professionals


Patient care may be undermined unless more women go into surgery, RCS says

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 16 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1400
  1. Tom Moberly
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. tmoberly{at}

Patients may receive lower quality surgical care unless more women opt for careers in surgery, the Royal College of Surgeons has said.

Speaking at the Women in Surgery conference this week, Clare Marx, president of the college, pointed out that 57% of doctors in training are now women. She said that, given the small proportion of these women who opted for careers in surgery, this figure should be a cause for concern.

“With females making up only 30% of surgical trainees and 11% of consultants, I am worried about our inability to convert many women into surgeons,” she said.

“Unless we can reverse that trend and encourage and support more women to access surgery as a career, we risk reducing our choice from the talent pool,” she said. “Eventually that has the potential of reducing the quality of care that patients receive.”

Marx quoted figures from a BMJ Careers article that highlighted concerns about the falling numbers of applicants to surgical specialties.1 “Our failure to attract sufficient and growing female trainee numbers is a factor behind why we are now attracting fewer overall candidates into surgery,” she said.

Marx argued that surgeons needed to “talk positively about how great a career it can be for women.” They also needed to “challenge the perception that a surgical career makes greater demands on your work-life balance than any other postgraduate medical career,” she said.