Dear Pat Responds to “In Need of Feedback”

31 Mar 2019

Dear Pat,

I was scrubbed in a case in the OR last week and my attending seemed to be very upset with me. Nothing in particular had happened, and I couldn’t identify what the problem was. She and I have worked together several times before and have always had a good working relationship. Now several days have passed, and the situation hasn’t improved. How can I figure out where I went wrong so that I can improve our relationship and not make the same mistake again?


In Need of Feedback

Dear “In Need of Feedback”

You did not indicate your year of training or the seniority of the attending however, I will assume that you are in the early years of training. My recommendation would be to ask the attending if you could make an appointment to review your performance. I would then ask her to identify your strengths & the areas in which you need to improve. Hopefully, the discussion will throw some light on the underlying problem. In the meantime, you could talk to your peers to see if they have also noticed a change. However, I would do this discreetly & only with the people you trust. If this is general change (and not just about you) then I would suggest that unless this is really bothering you, you just need to ignore it. If this is a general problem & it is bothering you (and your colleagues) to the extent that it impacts your training, I would approach the program director or the chair to express your concerns.

If you are a chief resident and the attending is relatively junior then it could be acceptable to ask if there is something troubling her as you noticed a change in her demeanor in the OR. Make sure not to make this accusatory.

I hope this helps!


Hilary Sanfey, MB, BCh, MHPE, FACS

Dr. Sanfey is Professor of Surgery and Vice-chair for Surgical Education at Southern Illinois University and the Chair of the AWS Foundation. She graduated from Trinity College Dublin Medical School, underwent surgical training at RCSI and completed fellowships at Johns Hopkins University, at the University Hospital Clinic de Barcelona and at the University of Virginia. Dr. Sanfey practiced as a consultant transplant surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and at the University of Virginia. Dr. Sanfey is a past president of the Association of Women Surgeons and past First Vice-president of the American College of Surgeons (ACS).  She co-chairs the Steering Committee for the ACS Certificate in Applied Surgical Education Leadership program and is a founding member of the ACS Academy of Master Surgeons, a member of the American Surgical Association, and a Fellow ad hominem of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

This recurring column is published on the fourth Sunday of each month. #DearPat answers questions about residency, fellowship, life after training, and focuses on issues pertinent to surgical trainees. Questions may be submitted anonymously and are answered by AWS council members. We want to hear from you, if you are interested submit your Dear Pat question here.  

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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