Multiple and multi-dimensional transitions from trainee to trained doctor: A qualitative longitudinal study in the UK

Lisi Gordon, Divya Jindal-Snape, Jill Morrison, Janine Muldoon, Gillian Needham, Sabina Siebert, Charlotte Rees

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Objectives: To explore trainee doctors’ experiences of the transition to trained doctor, we answer three questions: (1) What multiple and multi-dimensional transitions are experienced as participants move from trainee to trained doctor? (2) What facilitates and hinders doctors’ successful transition experiences? (3) What is the impact of multiple and multi-dimensional transitions on trained doctors?

Design: A qualitative longitudinal study underpinned by Multiple and Multi-dimensional Transitions (MMT) theory.

Setting: Four training areas (health boards) in the UK.

Participants: 20 doctors, 19 higher-stage trainees within six months of completing their postgraduate training and one SAS doctor, were recruited to the nine-month longitudinal audio-diary (LAD) study. All completed an entrance interview, 18 completed LADs, and 18 completed exit interviews.

Methods: Data were analysed cross-sectionally and longitudinally using thematic Framework Analysis.

Results: Participants experienced a multiplicity of expected and unexpected, positive and negative work-related transitions (e.g. new roles) and home-related transitions (e.g. moving home) during their trainee-trained doctor transition. Factors facilitating or inhibiting successful transitions were identified at various levels: individual (e.g. living arrangements), interpersonal (e.g. presence of supportive relationships), systemic (e.g. mentoring opportunities) and macro (e.g. the curriculum provided by Medical Royal Colleges). Various impacts of transitions were also identified at each of these four levels: individual (e.g. stress), interpersonal (e.g. trainees’ children spending more time in childcare), systemic (e.g. spending less time with patients) and macro (e.g. delayed start in trainees’ new roles).

Conclusions: Priority should be given to developing supportive relationships (both formal and informal) to help trainees transition into their trained doctor roles, as well as providing more opportunities for learning. Further longitudinal qualitative research is now needed with a longer study duration to explore transition journeys for several years into the trained doctor role.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere018583
Number of pages12
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


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