Preparing graduates to manage acutely unwell patients

Preparing graduates to manage acutely unwell patients - exploring the role of stress and strategies to mitigate its effects.

School:  Edinburgh Medical School

Team Members: Scott Clarke, Catriona Bell, David Hope, Janet Skinner


Background and Purpose: New graduates in medicine and veterinary medicine report feeling under prepared for the workplace. In particular, they often describe struggling with their role in the management of acutely unwell patients. This is a critical part of their job. Both groups have described their experiences with these patients as stressful and, particularly junior doctors, have reported feeling overwhelmed and even paralysed by the demands placed on them. Little research has explored the factors contributing towards this acute stress. This project will investigate these factors to inform development of mitigation strategies that will improve graduate safety and employability.

Aims: To explore both junior doctors’ and veterinary surgeons’ experiences and perceptions of stress when managing acutely unwell patients to inform curriculum development and teaching.

Methodology: Interviews will be carried out with doctors and veterinary surgeons practising in their first year following graduation. These will explore their experiences of stress when managing acutely unwell patients. Grounded theory principals will be used to identify emerging concepts and generate ‘theories’ to inform the development of a conceptual framework of their perceptions of stress in this challenging situation.

Dissemination: The results of the project will be used to produce a list of teaching recommendations that will be distributed to relevant committees in the College of Medicine and Veterinary. It is anticipated that the conceptual framework will inform development of educational interventions to help graduates mitigate the effects of stress when managing acutely unwell patients. Findings will be disseminated externally through conferences and peer-reviewed publications.

Final project report

Download final project report (PDF)