DOI: 10.1093/bjs/znad241.135 ISSN:

SP11.7 Do women surgeons have autonomy in the operating theatre? Exploring the lived experience of female surgical trainees

Garima Govind, Arunthathi Mahendran
  • Surgery



Female surgeons routinely face biases at work such as microaggressions, mistitling, lack of opportunities and are held up to a higher standard than their male colleagues. Female trainees feel that their abilities are routinely underestimated, and literature shows they are objectively given less operative autonomy than male colleagues.


Snowball sampling recruited nine participants to the study. Four participated in a focus group, and the remaining five participated in a one-on-one semi structured interview. The focus group and interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis to understand the lived experience of female surgical trainees and their experience of autonomy in the operating theatre.


Autonomy was associated with being able to make decisions peri- and intra-operatively and with being trusted to carry out the operation. Participants believed that positive relationships between themselves, their trainers and the wider theatre team is paramount to improving autonomy. A major barrier in improving training and autonomy is a disconnect between organisations and trainees’ learning needs.


an appropriate level of autonomy is vital for trainees’ development and career progression. Due to persisting biases in surgery, the training needs of female surgical trainees are unique, and this study has brought their lived experiences of operative autonomy to light. It is vital that women surgeons are visibly represented in leadership roles at all levels so that they can advocate for, not only for their female counterparts, but for all surgical trainees, allowing a more individualised training programme and ultimately improving the overall training experience.

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