Surveys of health professions trainees: Prevalence, response rates, and predictive factors to guide researchers

Andrew W. Phillips*, Benjamin T. Friedman, Amol Utrankar, Andrew Q. Ta, Shalini T. Reddy, Steven J. Durning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Purpose To establish a baseline overall response rate for surveys of health professions trainees, determine strategies associated with improved response rates, and evaluate for the presence of nonresponse bias. Method The authors performed a comprehensive analysis of all articles published in Academic Medicine, Medical Education, and Advances in Health Sciences Education in 2013, recording response rates. Additionally, they reviewed nonresponse bias analyses and factors suggested in other fields to affect response rate including survey delivery method, prenotification, and incentives. Results The search yielded 732 total articles; of these, 356 were research articles, and of these, 185 (52.0%) used at least one survey. Of these, 66 articles (35.6%) met inclusion criteria and yielded 73 unique surveys. Of the 73 surveys used, investigators reported a response rate for 63.0% of them; response rates ranged from 26.6% to 100%, mean (standard deviation) 71.3% (19.5%). Investigators reported using incentives for only 16.4% of the 73 surveys. The only survey methodology factor significantly associated with response rate was single- vs. multi-institutional surveys (respectively, 74.6% [21.2%] vs. 62.0% [12.8%], P =.022). Notably, statistical power for all analyses was limited. No articles evaluated for nonresponse bias. Conclusions Approximately half of the articles evaluated used a survey as part of their methods. Limited data are available to establish a baseline response rate among health professions trainees and inform researchers which strategies are associated with higher response rates. Journals publishing survey-based health professions education research should improve reporting of response rate, nonresponse bias, and other survey factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-228
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017


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