BACKGROUND: Much of the education during anaesthesia training occurs in the workplace where trainees work under the close supervision of a more senior anaesthetist. Trainee anaesthetists are exposed to multiple supervisors with whom they form educational and supervisory relationships over the course of their training. Surprisingly little research has been conducted to explore the factors behind the development and maintenance of these relationships. This study explores the process of how education occurs in the workplace by examining the relationship from the perspective of both trainees and specialists.
METHODS: This is an exploratory qualitative study. Eight trainee and 10 specialist anaesthetists participated in an individual semi-structured interview. The data were analysed thematically by each of the authors to generate themes.
RESULTS: Six themes were identified in the analysis: (1) sizing up; (2) negotiated autonomy; (3) working closely together; (4) workplace practices; (5) education being valued; and (6) gender. A conceptual model to illustrate the relationships between the six themes was developed.
CONCLUSIONS: Supervisory relationships were viewed positively by participants despite impediments such as lack of continuity and busy clinical environments. But there were tensions, particularly in balancing trainee autonomy with patient safety. A nuanced 'sizing up' process, with negotiation of autonomy, was described by both supervisors and trainees . Our findings may support supervisory relationships to reach this ideal more effectively.