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Open Access Research article

Supervision and feedback for junior medical staff in Australian emergency departments: findings from the emergency medicine capacity assessment study

George A Jelinek12*, Tracey J Weiland12 and Claire Mackinlay1

Author affiliations

1 Emergency Department, St Vincent's Hospital, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia

2 Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:74  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-74

Published: 2 November 2010

Abstract

Background

Clinical supervision and feedback are important for the development of competency in junior doctors. This study aimed to determine the adequacy of supervision of junior medical staff in Australian emergency departments (EDs) and perceived feedback provided.

Methods

Semi-structured telephone surveys sought quantitative and qualitative data from ED Directors, Directors of Emergency Medicine Training, registrars and interns in 37 representative Australian hospitals; quantitative data were analysed with SPSS 15.0 and qualitative data subjected to content analysis identifying themes.

Results

Thirty six of 37 hospitals took part. Of 233 potential interviewees, 95 (40.1%) granted interviews including 100% (36/36) of ED Directors, and 96.2% (25/26) of eligible DEMTs, 24% (19/81) of advanced trainee/registrars, and 17% (15/90) of interns. Most participants (61%) felt the ED was adequately supervised in general and (64.2%) that medical staff were adequately supervised. Consultants and registrars were felt to provide most intern supervision, but this varied depending on shift times, with registrars more likely to provide supervision on night shift and at weekends. Senior ED medical staff (64%) and junior staff (79%) agreed that interns received adequate clinical supervision. Qualitative analysis revealed that good processes were in place to ensure adequate supervision, but that service demands, particularly related to access block and overcrowding, had detrimental effects on both supervision and feedback.

Conclusions

Consultants appear to provide the majority of supervision of junior medical staff in Australian EDs. Supervision and feedback are generally felt to be adequate, but are threatened by service demands, particularly related to access block and ED overcrowding.