Identifying and exploring factors influencing career choice, recruitment and retention of anaesthesia trainees in the UK

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Abstract

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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