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Int J Med Educ. 2018 Feb 26;9:57-63. doi: 10.5116/ijme.5a83.6025.

Exploring the situational motivation of medical specialists: a qualitative study.

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VUmc School of Medical Sciences, Research in Education, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



The aim was to obtain insight into the factors in the work environment that motivate or demotivate a medical specialist during his/her working day.


A qualitative ethnographic design was used, and a constructivist approach was adopted with the Self-Determination theory of motivation as a framework. Six medical specialists from VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands, recruited through convenience, snowball, and purposive sampling, were shadowed for one day each. Data were transcribed and open-coded. Themes were finalized through discussion and consensus.


Sixty hours of observation data identified motivating and demotivating factors categorized into four themes that are important for specialists' motivation. Informational technology issues are demotivating factors. Working with colleagues can be both a motivating and demotivating factor, e.g., filling in for each other through feelings of relatedness was motivating. Being in control of one's planning through feelings of autonomy was motivating. Furthermore, patient care and teaching, especially in combination, stimulated specialists' motivation. Regarding the design of the study, we found that situational motivation is indeed observable.


The basic psychological needs autonomy, competence, and relatedness are important for specialists' motivation. Investing in a more motivating, open, transparent, and basic-needs- supportive work environment for medical specialists is necessary. Keywords: Continuing professional development, motivation, medical specialists, self-determination theory, qualitative research.


exploring; medical specialists; qualitative study; situational motivation; the netherlands

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