Imposter Syndrome widespread among dermatology trainees


By Michael Woodhead

1 Nov 2019

Imposter syndrome – the feeling of self-doubt despite academic and professional accomplishment – is widespread among early career dermatologists, a US study has found.

In an anonymous survey that drew responses from 122 dermatology residents, 89% had imposter syndrome with moderate to intense impostor tendencies.

The survey carried out by Dr Paul Regan of Penn State College of Medicine, also found a strong link between imposter syndrome and burnout, which was 20 times more common among dermatology residents who had a fear of being exposed as frauds and doubted their talent and ability.

Based on scores from the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS) the survey responses showed that imposter syndrome was slightly more frequent in females compared to males (92% vs. 85%) and was almost universal (98%) among second year dermatology residents

Overall, just over half the respondents (56%) had burnout in at least one of the categories in the Maslach Burnout Inventory Human Services Survey for Medical Personnel, and the odds were 19.6 times greater for those with imposter syndrome. Emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation were also more common among people with imposter syndrome.

Writing in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr Regan said that while response bias might have overestimated its prevalence, Imposter Syndrome was a significant concern among respondents to the survey.

“Imposter Syndrome may underlie psychological distress among residents and prevent them from seeking new or challenging opportunities due to lack of confidence or perceived competence,” he wrote.

“Strategies to address Imposter Syndrome, such as a space to share and normalise common struggles with peers, strong professional mentorship, and feedback that acknowledges efforts and accomplishments, could be developed to help residents deal with feelings of self-doubt,” he suggested.

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