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BMJ Open. 2017 Aug 11;7(8):e015890. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-015890.

Exploring newly qualified doctors' workplace stressors: an interview study from Australia.

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University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Alfred Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



Postgraduate year 1 (PGY1) doctors suffer from high levels of psychological distress, yet the contributory factors are poorly understood. This study used an existing model of workplace stress to explore the elements most pertinent to PGY1 doctors. In turn, the data were used to amend and refine the conceptual model to better reflect the unique experiences of PGY1 doctors.


Focus groups were undertaken with PGY1 doctors working at four different health services in Victoria, Australia. Transcripts were coded using Michie's model of workplace stress as the initial coding template. Remaining text was coded inductively and the supplementary codes were used to modify and amplify Michie's framework.


There were 37 participants in total. Key themes included stressors intrinsic to the job, such as work overload and long hours, as well as those related to the context of work such as lack of role clarity and relationships with colleagues. The main modification to Michie's framework was the addition of the theme of uncertainty. This concept related to most of the pre-existing themes in complex ways, culminating in an overall sense of anxiety.


Michie's model of workplace stress can be effectively used to explore the stressors experienced by PGY1 doctors. Pervasive uncertainty may help to explain the high levels of psychological morbidity in this group. While some uncertainty will always remain, the medical education community must seek ways to improve role clarity and promote mutual respect.


qualitative research

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Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.

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