Interprofessional Learning, Support and Feedback in Early Career Professionals
By Helen Foster-Collins, University of Exeter
I was fortunate to be able to attend a BERA Research Commission seminar on
Understanding cost, value and quality in professional education, last year, as part of a
conference hosted by the Centre for Research in Professional Learning (CRPL), at the
University of Exeter, and which provided funded places to post-graduate students and early
career researchers (most valuable, given limited training resources). This gave me an
opportunity to network and share ideas with other educational researchers and professionals
right at the beginning of the PhD process, which was useful in helping me to appreciate the
wider background to my research and to develop the ideas that we had been discussing as a
research team - on the links between the training of doctors and teachers, and the ways in
which professionals support and learn from each other in the workplace.
It has long been noted that parallels exist between the workplace training and professional
development of doctors and teachers (Booth, 1995). Despite obvious differences in the
ultimate aims of these professional roles and the length of formal training required, there are
broad similarities, both in the nature of the job roles themselves; involving service to the
public, emotional labour, and dealing with what Eraut (2007) refers to as ‘hot action’
situations, which involve thinking on one’s feet in response to complex and changeable
situations; but also in terms of how ‘learning to be a professional’ is achieved once formal
training is complete, which often takes place during informal and unstructured workplace
experiences, in the course of daily activity. Such comparisons between the medical and
teaching worlds have particular relevance today, in the light of attempts to apply medical
models of training to teacher training and debates regarding the extent to which such transfers
are possible (Conroy et al, 2013), as well as similar socio-political environments, such as staff
shortages, mental health issues and early professional departure.
Recent work by my colleagues upon the workplace experiences of trainee doctors at four UK
hospitals (Mattick et al, 2014; Rees et al, 2014; Monrouxe et al, 2015) drew the team’s
attention to how recently-qualified doctors garner support from many different professionals
within their hospital placements, and not just from senior doctors. Past research has
highlighted the support which nurses and pharmacists provide to junior doctors (Burford et al,
2013; Noble & Billet, 2017), but has not investigated fully the other sources of
interprofessional support which may be available. Therefore, the first stage of my research
will involve a secondary analysis of these existing narrative datasets using framework
analysis, in order to examine: which other professionals are approached or offer support to
foundation-year one medical trainees (FY1s) in the workplace environment, what types of
support are offered, in what circumstances and how that is provided, as well as any barriers or
supporting factors which may exist in their organisational and social environments, including
the ways in which other professionals may be perceived by FY1s, and the responses of the
trainees themselves to these factors. Across this study, I am defining support as broadly as
possible; so in a medical environment this might include information, advice and guidance,
help with learning clinical skills and supporting clinical decision-making, feedback on
immediate tasks and long-term progress, practical support, and social and emotional support.
In the second phase of my research, I aim to collect narrative interview data on the
experiences of newly-qualified secondary-school teachers (NQTs) in receiving
interprofessional support within their informal workplace settings, addressing similar
questions regarding: who provides support, what types of support are provided and how, and
the institutional and social barriers and facilitators of interprofessional support in these
contexts. Again, some research has looked at the support which teachers receive from certain
professionals; for example, that received from teaching assistants, but more work is required
to uncover the full range of interprofessional learning experiences in school environments;
though it is clear that interpersonal relationships and social support are paramount to new
teachers’ professional learning and wellbeing (Williams et al, 2001).
This study aims to uncover both the specific nature of interprofessional support in these two
workplace environments, but also to examine any broad similarities or differences in the
nature of this support, and the factors which might encourage or inhibit it, with a view to
developing professional workplace theories regarding interprofessional learning and support.
It is hoped that such findings will be of benefit not just in terms of theoretical understanding,
but also in disseminating information to interested stakeholders, such as teacher and medical
educators, for improved understanding of how professionals learn from each other and to
Booth, M. (1995) Training of doctors in hospitals: a comparison with teacher education. Journal of Education
for Teaching, 21(2), 145-162.
Burford, B., Morrowa, G., Morrison, J., Baldauf, B., Spencer, J., Johnsone, N., Rothwell, C., Peilee, E., Davies,
C., Allen, M. & Illing, J. (2013) Newly qualified doctors’ perceptions of informal learning from nurses:
implications for interprofessional education and practice. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 25(5), 394-400.
Conroy, J., Hulme, M., & Menter, I. (2013) Developing a ‘clinical’model for teacher education. Journal of
Education for Teaching, 39(5), 557-573.Eraut, M. (2007) Learning from other people in the workplace. Oxford
Review of Education, 33(4), 403-422.
Eraut, M. (2007) Learning from other people in the workplace. Oxford Review of Education, 33(4), 403-422.
Mattick, K., Kelly, N. & Rees, C. (2014) A window into the lives of junior doctors: narrative interviews
exploring antimicrobial prescribing experiences. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 69(8), 2274-83.
Monrouxe, L., Bullock, A., Rees, C. E., Mattick, K., Webb, L., Lall, K. & Lundin, R. (2015) Foundation
doctors, transitions and emotions: Final report to the General Medical Council.
Noble, C., & Billett, S. (2017) Learning to prescribe through co‐working: junior doctors, pharmacists and
consultants. Medical Education, 51(4), 442-451.
Rees, C. E., Cleland, J. A., Dennis, A., Kelly, N., Mattick, K. & Monrouxe, L. V. (2014) Supervised learning
events in the Foundation Programme: a UK-wide narrative interview study. BMJ Open, 4(10), 1-13.
Williams, A., Prestage, S. & Bedward, J. (2001) Individualism to collaboration: The significance of teacher
culture to the induction of newly qualified teachers. Journal of Education for Teaching, 27(3), 253-267.
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.