A national qualitative investigation of the impact of service change on doctors’ training during Covid-19

M. E. W. M. Silkens, K. Alexander, R. Viney, C. O’Keeffe, S. Taylor, L. M. Noble, A. Griffin

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Background: The Covid-19 crisis sparked service reconfigurations in healthcare systems worldwide. With postgraduate medical education sitting within these systems, service reconfigurations substantially impact trainees and their training environment. This study aims to provide an in-depth qualitative understanding of the impact of service reconfiguration on doctors’ training during the pandemic, identifying opportunities for the future as well as factors that pose risks to education and training and how these might be mitigated. Methods: Qualitative parallel multi-centre case studies examined three Trusts/Health Boards in two countries in the United Kingdom. Data were collected from online focus groups and interviews with trainees and supervisors using semi-structured interview guides (September to December 2020). A socio-cultural model of workplace learning, the expansive-restrictive continuum, informed data gathering, analysis of focus groups and coding. Results: Sixty-six doctors participated, representing 25 specialties/subspecialties. Thirty-four participants were male, 26 were supervisors, 17 were specialty trainees and 23 were foundation doctors. Four themes described the impact of pandemic-related service reconfigurations on training: (1) Development of skills and job design, (2) Supervision and assessments, (3) Teamwork and communication, and (4) Workload and wellbeing. Service changes were found to both facilitate and hinder education and training, varying across sites, specialties, and trainees’ grades. Trainees’ jobs were redesigned extensively, and many trainees were redeployed to specialties requiring extra workforce during the pandemic. Conclusions: The rapid and unplanned service reconfigurations during the pandemic caused unique challenges and opportunities to doctors’ training. This impaired trainees’ development in their specialty of interest, but also presented new opportunities such as cross-boundary working and networking.
Original languageEnglish
Article number174
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Case-study research
  • Learning environments
  • Medical training
  • Postgraduate medical education
  • Service reconfiguration

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