Good conversations, fairer feedback

What were the key findings?

  • Doctors in training consider feedback as an important part of their development. Receiving feedback was associated with increased job satisfaction.
  • Feedback was considered more credible if it was timely, actionable and specific. And more meaningful if the personal and professional values of giver and receiver are aligned.
  • A reported reluctance from trainers to deliver critical feedback means that trainees can struggle to get constructive and honest feedback.
  • Participants described the considerable impact that negative feedback in particular could have in striking language: ‘public shaming’; ‘ambushed’. 
  • An absence of feedback leaves trainees feeling uncertain, insecure, and
  • Positive feedback made trainees feel engaged, built confidence, and influenced career choices. 
  • Poorly delivered feedback was described as impacting on relationships, engagement within departments, affecting training opportunities, and reducing access to help and support.
  • Feedback was highlighted as a way that workplaces and trainers demonstrated interest and investment in trainees.
  • Cultural barriers were identified, in particular by trainees with protected characteristics, as a reason they felt feedback was not relevant or appropriate.

Why did we undertake this research?

In 2018 we launched a programme of work, supporting a profession under pressure, to address issues about doctors’ working environments and the impact of systems pressures on medical practice. A common issue we identified across the programme was the quality of the feedback conversations doctors have.

This research, undertaken by two of our clinical fellows, was designed to give us a better understanding of the impact of feedback and the barriers to trainees experiencing high-quality feedback conversations.

What did the research involve?

This research consisted of a literature review followed by semi-structured interviews with 13 doctors. The sample was purposefully selected to make sure the views of doctors with a range of backgrounds and experiences were included.

Full report

Good conversations, fairer feedback