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Exploring the components of physician volunteer engagement: a qualitative investigation of a national Canadian simulation-based training programme
  1. Aimee J Sarti1,
  2. Stephanie Sutherland1,
  3. Angele Landriault2,
  4. Kirk DesRosier2,
  5. Susan Brien3,
  6. Pierre Cardinal1
  1. 1Department of Critical Care Medicine, The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Canada
  2. 2Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Practice, Performance and Innovation Unit, Ottawa, Canada
  3. 3Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Aimee J Sarti; asarti{at}


Objectives Conceptual clarity on physician volunteer engagement is lacking in the medical literature. The aim of this study was to present a conceptual framework to describe the elements which influence physician volunteer engagement and to explore volunteer engagement within a national educational programme.

Setting The context for this study was the Acute Critical Events Simulation (ACES) programme in Canada, which has successfully evolved into a national educational programme, driven by physician volunteers. From 2010 to 2014, the programme recruited 73 volunteer healthcare professionals who contributed to the creation of educational materials and/or served as instructors.

Method A conceptual framework was constructed based on an extensive literature review and expert consultation. Secondary qualitative analysis was undertaken on 15 semistructured interviews conducted from 2012 to 2013 with programme directors and healthcare professionals across Canada. An additional 15 interviews were conducted in 2015 with physician volunteers to achieve thematic saturation. Data were analysed iteratively and inductive coding techniques applied.

Results From the physician volunteer data, 11 themes emerged. The most prominent themes included volunteer recruitment, retention, exchange, recognition, educator network and quasi-volunteerism. Captured within these interrelated themes were the framework elements, including the synergistic effects of emotional, cognitive and reciprocal engagement. Behavioural engagement was driven by these factors along with a cue to action, which led to contributions to the ACES programme.

Conclusion This investigation provides a preliminary framework and supportive evidence towards understanding the complex construct of physician volunteer engagement. The need for this research is particularly important in present day, where growing fiscal constraints create challenges for medical education to do more with less.

  • volunteer
  • engagement
  • qualitative research
  • medical educatical
  • critical care

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 and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors AJS and SS had full access to all the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. AJS, SS, AL, KD, SB, PC: study concept and design; critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content. AJS, SS, AL, KD: acquisition of data. AJS, SS, AL, PC: analysis and interpretation of data. AJS, SS: drafting of the manuscript. AL. SB, PC: obtained funding. AL, KD: administrative, technical or material support. AJS, SS, PC: study supervision. All authors have approved the final version of this manuscript.

  • Funding Resources and secretariat support for this project were provided by the Royal College.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent No patient involvement in this study.

  • Ethics approval This study was granted an official exemption by the Chair of The Ottawa Hospital Research Ethics Board.

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

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

  • Correction notice This paper has been amended since it was published Online First. Owing to a scripting error, some of the publisher names in the references were replaced with 'BMJ Publishing Group'. This only affected the full text version, not the PDF. We have since corrected these errors and the correct publishers have been inserted into the references.

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