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Challenges to well-being for general practice trainee doctors: a qualitative study of their experiences and coping strategies
  1. Sarah Ansell1,
  2. James Read2,
  3. Marie Bryce2
  1. 1Peninsula Postgraduate Medical Education School of Primary Care, Health Education England South West, Plymouth, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Health, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marie Bryce, Faculty of Health, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK; marie.bryce{at}


Purposes of the study To identify the challenges to well-being experienced by general practice postgraduate trainees and to explore how the trainees respond to those challenges.

Study design Qualitative focus group study with doctors in their final year of general practice training (n=16). The participants in the study were recruited from one training scheme in South West England. Data were thematically analysed.

Results Participants reported challenges to well-being relating to dysfunctional relationships with colleagues and patients, their workload, a perceived lack of support at work and also physical environmental challenges. They identified response strategies focused on cognitive processing, physical self-care, focusing on their professional purpose, building supportive relationships and adapting their working environment where possible. Additionally, there were factors that could support trainee well-being, including personal factors such as adaptability and self-awareness, but also external and organisational factors, such as culture, supportive colleagues and organisational adaptability in relation to workload management. The importance to trainees of the idea of being a ‘good doctor’ arose repeatedly in the data, as did the importance of the organisational environment. Participants reported finding their training placements in secondary care environments particularly challenging.

Conclusion This research highlights the strategies that general practice trainees use in response to challenges, but also that the responsibility for maintaining well-being cannot be borne by individuals alone. This study identifies that supportive approaches by healthcare organisations and educators are vitally important to general practitioner trainees’ well-being.

  • medical education & training
  • primary care
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  • Contributors SA planned the study in discussion with MB and JR. SA carried out the data collection and the initial analysis; all authors discussed and further developed the analysis. SA wrote the first draft of this article; all authors contributed to and critically revised subsequent drafts of the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript. MB is responsible for the overall content of the article as guarantor.

  • Funding The first author was part-funded to undertake her Masters in Clinical Education at the University of Plymouth by Health Education England South West.

  • Competing interests SA is an associate postgraduate dean with Health Education England South West. JR is a postgraduate trainee on a General Medical Council-approved training programme in geriatric medicine through Health Education England South West.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was granted by the Plymouth University Faculty of Health and Human Sciences Student Ethics Committee.

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

  • Data availability statement No data are available. No data are available due to the nature of the consent obtained from participants.

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