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Roles, tasks and educational functions of postgraduate programme directors: a qualitative study
  1. Hanna Frydén1,
  2. Sari Ponzer2,
  3. Kristiina Heikkilä3,
  4. Lars Kihlström4,
  5. Jonas Nordquist1,5
  1. 1Department of Medicine (Huddinge), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  2. 2Department of Clinical Science and Education, Södersjukhuset, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3Department of Health and Care Sciences, Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden
  4. 4Department of Research and Education, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
  5. 5Department of Research and Education, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Hanna Frydén, Department of Medicine (Huddinge), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm 141 86, Sweden; hanna.fryden{at}


Background A programme director is often required to organise postgraduate medical education. This leadership role can include educational as well as managerial duties. Only a few published studies have explored programme directors’ own perceptions of their role. There is a need to explore the use of theoretical frameworks to improve the understanding of educational roles.

Objective To explore programme directors’ own perceptions of their role in terms of tasks and functions, and to relate these roles to the theoretical framework developed by Bolman and Deal.

Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 programme directors between February and August 2013. The data were subjected to content analysis using a deductive approach.

Results The various roles and tasks included by participants in their perceptions of their work could be categorised within the framework of functions described by Bolman and Deal. These included: structuring the education (structural function); supporting individuals and handling relations (human resource function); negotiating between different interests (political function); and influencing the culture at the departmental level (symbolic function). The functions most often emphasised by participants were the structural and human resource functions. Some tasks involved several functions which varied over time.

Conclusions Programme directors’ own perceptions of their roles, tasks and functions varied widely. The theoretical framework of Bolman and Deal might be helpful when explaining and developing these roles.


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