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Identifying and exploring factors influencing career choice, recruitment and retention of anaesthesia trainees in the UK
  1. J N Moore1,
  2. A J McDiarmid2,
  3. P W Johnston3,
  4. J A Cleland1
  1. 1The Institute of Education for Medical and Dental Sciences, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  2. 2Department of Anaesthesia, NHS Grampian, Aberdeen, UK
  3. 3North Region, Scotland Deanery, NHS Education for Scotland, Aberdeen, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jolene Moore, Department of Anaesthesia, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Foresterhill Road, Aberdeen AB25 2ZN, UK; jolenemoore{at}


Background Many acute hospital specialties are experiencing low recruitment and high attrition of trainees. Understanding what is important to current trainees is critical in terms of identifying and addressing factors which adversely affect recruitment and retention.

Objectives To identify and explore factors involved in anaesthetic trainees' career decision making.

Methods This was a mixed methods study using a questionnaire survey (assessing how influential 18 different factors were when choosing anaesthetics, using a five-point Likert scale), supplemented by semi-structured interviews, carried out in August–December 2014, in Scotland, UK.

Results 42/68 (62%) completed responses were received, representing over half of all core (58%) and Acute Care Common Stem (65%) trainees across Scotland. Overall, questionnaire data indicated that the following were most important in career decision making: perceived job satisfaction among those already in the specialty, structured training, the nature of the work (practical, varied, immediate outcomes). Thirteen interviews were carried out. These highlighted that prior positive exposure and experience with anaesthetists encouraged trainees into the specialty. Enthusiastic, supportive colleagues and structured training (including clear milestones, regular teaching and feedback) were considered to enhance the quality of training. Sustainable working conditions, flexibility within programme and out-of-programme opportunities were valued. Respondents reported concerns about the impact of increasing service delivery demands on training quality.

Conclusions Many of the elements important to today's anaesthetics trainees are related to positive learning and working environments. This fits with research findings from other professional groups. These findings can inform the development of programmes which cultivate trainee commitment to, and enthusiasm for, anaesthetics.


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  • This work was presented as a poster at the 5th NHS Education for Scotland Medical Directorate Conference, 27 and 28 April 2015, as a poster at the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland conference of the Group of Anaesthetists in Training, 17–19 June 2015, and as a poster and oral presentation at the Association for the Study of Medical Education annual scientific meeting on 15–17 July 2015.

  • Contributors JNM, JAC and PWJ had the original idea for the study, which was developed in collaboration with AMcD. JNM prepared the ethics application. JC and JNM led on the literature review. JNM carried out the data collection, which was facilitated by AJMcD. JNM carried out the analysis, supervised by JAC and PWJ. JNM prepared the original draft of the paper which was reviewed by JAC, PWJ and AJMcD. All authors contributed to the final paper. The study is guaranteed by the University of Aberdeen.

  • Funding This work was supported by an award from NHS Grampian Research and Development Endowment Research Grants (Project no 14/38).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval University of Aberdeen College of Ethics Review Board and NHS Grampian Ethics R&D Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.