Working with doctors Working for patients

Foundation doctors, transitions and emotions

Published: October 2015

What were the key findings?

  • The research identified the emotional pressures foundation doctors in this study operated under and the strategies they used to manage and regulate their emotions.
  • Most of the negative emotions experienced were anxiety related, rather than sadness or anger.
  • Two common patterns were identified – suppression of emotions during an event and expression afterwards, and expression during and regret afterwards.
  • The research suggests that outwardly expressing emotions in the workplace was viewed negatively by foundation year doctors and inward suppression as desirable.
  • Some of the strategies doctors used to manage their emotions have the potential to negatively impact on their own health and patient care.
  • The report suggested that foundation doctors may have limited understanding of how to manage their emotions in the workplace healthily.
  • The research found that the workplace environment and team in which foundation doctors work were factors which affected whether doctors were able to manage their emotions in a healthy way

Why did we commission this research?

Research published in 2014 How prepared are UK medical graduates for practice? discussed how foundation year 1 doctors felt unprepared for their own emotional response to the challenges of the role but found that this aspect was poorly understood. This follow-on study was commissioned to find out how foundation doctors manage their emotions in challenging clinical situations.

What did the research involve?

As the research questions were explorative, the study adopted a qualitative approach using audio diaries and interviews with 26 foundation year 2 doctors across four UK sites. As this was a qualitative study the sampling strategy was not designed to be representative of the wider population.

Full report

Full Report (pdf)