How to Give Feedback to Junior Residents

Claire McDaniel, MD | Ryley Zastrow, MD

December 21, 2022

Giving and receiving feedback is a challenging skill regardless of training level. Residency may be the first time that you are giving feedback to someone in a formal manner in a work environment, and this feedback will most likely be directed at the junior residents. Here are some pearls that can be useful for giving feedback to your co-residents that can aid them incorporating the suggestions into their practice.

Delivering Feedback As A Fellow Junior Resident

In some ways, giving feedback to an immediate peer is more challenging than to a senior. These are your co-residents who are experiencing the same day-to-day pressures and demands as you are, who are by your side as you learn and grow as an orthopaedic surgery resident. It can feel uncomfortable to give feedback, especially constructive feedback, to someone who is in your same position.

Although much of the discomfort of giving feedback to an immediate peer comes from that common standing, it can be effective to appeal to the commonalities in position to deliver that feedback. For example, beginning a conversation discussing how you might manage a patient concern or address an aspect of a surgical case can be a good launching point to then asking your peer why they chose to manage it in a certain, less successful, way. By starting a conversation that gives and takes, you can not only learn more about your co-resident’s thought process, you can give suggestions for improvements in a non-judgmental manner. Tone, style, and delivery of the information are all critical to avoid potential defensive posturing.  

Delivering Feedback As A Senior Resident

As a senior on a service, you will be leading a team, possibly for the first time. The responsibilities you face will be similar but slightly different from more junior residents. It is important to take into account what you know of the role of a junior resident and also incorporate your priorities of team management and workflow efficiency.

It can seem challenging at times to give constructive feedback, as poorly delivered feedback could derail the confidence of a junior resident or have a negative impact on team dynamics. While it may seem trite, delivering constructive feedback in between positive feedback (“sandwich approach”) remains a highly effective way to demonstrate that you remain supportive of the resident’s growth as a surgeon. Be sure to emphasize that feedback is not a personal attack, but the observations of a peer who is interested in helping a co-resident become the best surgeon they can be.

Ultimately, feedback for junior residents is an opportunity to impart your knowledge from years in training. Building trust based on your position as a team leader and a teacher will enable more effective implementation of your feedback to junior residents. Keep in mind, that self and situational awareness are critical to the success of providing feedback. Do not do so in public with others around – take the time to spend one-on-one time to make it less threatening. Also recognize that your standing in the residency is critical – if you are someone who has earned the trust and respect of your co-residents, this information will likely be much more positively received.

DISCLOSURES: Dr. McDaniel a close family member who works for Ferring Pharmaceuticals (makes Euflexxa). Dr. Zastrow This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2022 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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