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How can positive and negative trainer feedback in the operating theatre impact a surgical trainee’s confidence and well-being: a qualitative study in the north of England


Objective To identify the perception of positive feedback (PF) and negative feedback (NF) provided by trainers in the operating theatre on surgical trainees' confidence and well-being.

Design Narrative interview study.

Setting Twelve hospitals that form part of one deanery within the UK.

Participants Maximum variation sampling of 15 higher general surgical trainees provided insight into how PF and NF from trainers in the operating theatre affect confidence and well-being.

Methods Narrative telephone interviews were conducted with general surgical trainees between April and June 2016. All interviews were recorded, transcribed and anonymised. Transcriptions were analysed using the five-step framework analysis by two independent researchers.

Results Fifteen trainees (age 28–38 years) were interviewed (median interview time: 29 min). Thematic framework analysis identified nine themes within the data. PF, which included corrective feedback, helped the trainees to relax and seemed to enhance their operative performance. All trainees reported significant and unjustified NF, some of which would be defined as undermining and bullying. Many believed this to have a negative impact on their training with minimal educational benefit. Many trainees felt NF adversely affected their performance in the operating theatre with some expressing a wish to leave the profession as a consequence.

Conclusion Both PF and NF exist in the operating theatre. Both have an important influence on the trainee, their performance and career. PF, if specific, helped aid progression of learning, increased motivation and performance of surgical trainees. In contrast, NF was perceived to have detrimental effects on trainees’ performance and their well-being and, in some, introduced a desire to pursue an alternative career.

  • aurgery
  • qualitative research

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  • Contributors DK’s substantial contribution involved design, data collection, analysis and write up of this article.JI’s substantial contribution involved design, data analysis, write up and revision of this article. Both authors are in agreement for this final version to be published and agree to be accountable for all aspects of this work.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was gained from Newcastle University.

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

  • Data sharing statement Copies of coded interview transcriptions and all raw data that was thematically analysed are available upon request.

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