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Australian general practice registrars’ experiences of training, well-being and support during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study
  1. Isabella White1,
  2. Jill Benson2,
  3. Taryn Elliott2,
  4. Lucie Walters3
  1. 1Department of General Practice/Adelaide Rural Clinical School, The University of Adelaide Rural Clinical School, Nairne, South Australia, Australia
  2. 2GPEx, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  3. 3The University of Adelaide Rural Clinical School, Mount Gambier, South Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Isabella White; isabella.white.1993{at}


Objectives Providing well-supported general practice (GP) training is fundamental to strengthen the primary health workforce. Research into the unique needs of GP registrars during disasters is limited. Registrar burnout and insufficient support have been associated with personal and professional detrimental effects. This study aims to explore the experiences of Australian GP registrars with learning, well-being and support from their training organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to guide training organisation efforts to support registrars through future disasters.

Setting Interviews were conducted via Zoom.

Participants Fifteen GP registrars from South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales who had experienced community-based GP training in both 2019 (prepandemic) and 2020 (early pandemic).

Outcome measures Training, well-being and support experiences were explored. Interviews were recorded and transcribed and themes analysed.

Results Diverse experiences were reported: changes included telehealth, online tutorials, delayed examinations and social restrictions. Social and professional connections strongly influenced experiences. Personal and training factors were also important. Additional GP training organisation support was minimally needed when strong connections were in place.

Conclusions This study identifies aspects of support which shaped registrars’ diverse experiences of COVID-19, particularly regarding professional and social connections. Findings illustrate the importance of broad principles around supporting registrar well-being. Particularly significant aspects of support include connection to educational mentors such as supervisors and medical educators; connection and culture within practices; opportunities to share clinical experiences; and connection to personal social supports. Participation in this global disaster contributed to registrars’ developing professionalism. GP training organisations are positioned to implement monitoring and supports for registrars through disasters. Although registrars may not require significant GP training organisation intervention where powerful professional and personal connections exist, strong foundational GP training organisation supports can be established and augmented to support registrars in need before and during future disasters. These findings contribute to the global developing field of knowledge of registrar training and well-being needs during crises.

  • COVID-19
  • medical education & training
  • primary care

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Due to the potentially identifiable nature of some comments, data have not been made publicly available but can be made available on application in accordance with ethics requirements.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Due to the potentially identifiable nature of some comments, data have not been made publicly available but can be made available on application in accordance with ethics requirements.

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  • Contributors IW is the primary researcher, with involvement in all aspects of the project including research design, recruitment, conduction of interview, interview transcription and deidentification, data analysis and interpretation of results, article drafting and publication preparation. LW has been the primary research supervisor and guarantor. She has supported the development of the research design, has been involved in deidentified transcript analysis and result interpretation and supported the manuscript drafting, review and approval. JB has supported the supervision of IW, including the development of the research design, methodology, analysis and manuscript review. TE has supported research planning and implementation, particularly around RTO engagement, communication, research translation and manuscript review.

  • Funding This research project is supported by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners with funding from the Australian Government under the Australian General Practice Training programme.

  • Competing interests IW is currently an RACGP General Practice Registrar training with GPEx. She has won a grant through the RACGP to undertake this research project as part of her GP registrar training. RACGP and GPEx are not directly involved in conducting this research. No other member of the research team will benefit financially or otherwise from conducting this research. LW is the Director of the Adelaide Rural Clinical School and sits on ACRRM, Research and Assessment Committees, neither of which have involvement in GP registrar training. JB and TE are both staff members of GPEx. Neither participated directly in registrar interviews.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

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