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Pediatric Fellows: Perspectives on Training and Future Scope of Practice

Freed GL, Dunham KM, Switalski KE, Jones MD Jr, McGuinness GA; Research Advisory Committee of the American Board of Pediatrics
Pub Med #: 

Training for pediatric residents who intend to pursue fellowship differs little from training for residents who intend to practice general pediatrics. It is unknown how well residents who intend to pursue subspecialty training believe that residency prepares them for subspecialty fellowships or future careers. To characterize the strengths and weaknesses of residency training and the factors influencing subspecialty choice from the perspective of subspecialty fellows, we conducted a survey of current fellows on these issues.

A random sample of 1000 physicians who were entering their second or third year of fellowship in the United States in 2007 received a structured questionnaire by mail. The survey focused on decision-making in selection of residency and fellowship programs, strength of residency training in preparation for fellowship, and plans for future practice.

The overall response rate was 81%. A majority of the fellows would not have shortened their general pediatrics residency before fellowship if given the option (64% [n = 482]). However, more than half (52% [n = 390]) of the fellows would have chosen a 2-year fellowship without research or scholarly activity over the current 3-year structure. Few current fellows believed they could have used any additional training in the areas of patient safety, coordination of care for children with complex illnesses, or patient communication.

The finding that a large proportion of fellows would opt for shortened subspecialty training should prompt discussion and debate within the profession regarding the skills necessary for a pediatric subspecialist. Patient safety, physician-parent communication, and care coordination are emphasized primarily through informal training during residency. Although most clinicians believe themselves to be adequately prepared, research has identified gaps in clinician skills and understanding of these issues of great importance to patients and their families.