Bad role models lead junior doctors to regret choice of career

September 26, 2002

Bad role models can lead junior doctors to regret their choice of career, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

The majority of consultants in the UK act as supervisors for junior doctors. They are entrusted with the educational supervision of doctors in their first year of practice and are responsible for inculcating the principles of good medical practice.

Researchers from the University of London conducted a confidential survey of preregistration house officers across the UK. Respondents were asked to describe an exchange with a supervising consultant that had seemed important or interesting and to tell the researchers how they felt about it.

In 59 per cent of cases the described exchange was positive, with the house officer being praised, taught, given career advice, support or offered examples of excellent patient care. In these cases the house officers admired and respected their consultants, they were likely to feel happy in their choice of medicine as a career and to believe they would make good doctors.

Over 20 per cent of house officers described a consultant behaving badly towards them by making unreasonable demands, bullying, being unfair, or being sexist. In a further 7 per cent of cases the consultant was portrayed as incompetent, insensitive or negligent towards patients. These house officers lacked respect for their consultant and were most likely to regret their choice of medicine as a career.

A healthy mentoring relationship is likely to provide the mental and moral challenges essential to continuing self improvement. However some senior doctors have a poor attitude towards educational supervision, causing confusion, distress and anger in doctors under their supervision.

The researchers conclude that role models may not be a dependable way to impart professional values, attitudes and behaviours and suggest these attributes should be explicitly taught through peer group discussion and by trained mentors.
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BMJ

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