Surgeon and nonsurgeon personalities at different career points

Joseph M. Drosdeck, Sylvester N. Osayi, Laura A. Peterson, Lianbo Yu, Edwin Christopher Ellison, Peter Muscarella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Background Previous studies have demonstrated correlations between personality traits and job performance and satisfaction. Evidence suggests that personality differences exist between surgeons and nonsurgeons, some of which may develop during medical training. Understanding these personality differences may help optimize job performance and satisfaction among surgical trainees and be used to identify individuals at risk of burnout. This study aims to identify personality traits of surgeons and nonsurgeons at different career points. Materials and methods We used The Big Five Inventory, a 44-item measure of the five factor model. Personality data and demographics were collected from responses to an electronic survey sent to all faculty and house staff in the Departments of Surgery, Medicine, and Family Medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Data were analyzed to identify differences in personality traits between surgical and nonsurgical specialties according to level of training and to compare surgeons to the general population. Results One hundred ninety-two house staff and faculty in surgery and medicine completed the survey. Surgeons scored significantly higher on conscientiousness and extraversion but lower on agreeableness compared to nonsurgeons (all P < 0.05). Surgery faculty scored lower in agreeableness compared with that of surgery house staff (P = 0.001), whereas nonsurgeon faculty scored higher on extraversion compared with that of nonsurgeon house staff (P = 0.04). Conclusions There appears to be inherent personality differences between surgical and nonsurgical specialties. The use of personality testing may be a useful adjunct in the residency selection process for applicants deciding between surgical and nonsurgical specialties. It may also facilitate early intervention for individuals at high risk for burnout and job dissatisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-66
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Personality
  • Physician burnout
  • Specialty choice
  • Surgical personality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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