Stressful events in medical practice

We are taking a different approach to looking at the stressors in day to day medical practice.

The emphasis on prevalence studies in this area often means the use of standard stress scales to capture levels of stress in a very generic way.  We believe it is important to look closer at specific experiences.

we are using an event-sampling design to minimise interruption and get closer to the experiences of interest.

We are also very aware that medical students and trainees are incredibly busy and don’t have a lot of time to contribute to research.  So in this study we are using an event-sampling design to minimise the interruption but also to get closer to the experiences we are interested in.

In this study:

  • You will be asked to complete a very short background questionnaire of wellbeing and identity items as a baseline of the study. This should take 6 minutes or less.
  • Approximately once per week at a random time you will receive a trigger email with a link to a very short survey.  This initial link asks you only to identify (with a brief description) the most stressful occurrence in the last 3 days, and to rate the stress on a thermometer type scale. (This should take less than a minute to do and can be done on a smartphone).
  • If no response is received to this initial trigger the link expires and no further action is required until the next trigger is received. (One follow-up trigger is sent in a given week).
  • If you are able to respond to the stress enquiry trigger, then a follow-up link will be emailed with some additional questions.  The brief description you provided will be given as a memory aid to help you recall the event in question. You will then be asked some additional questions about the event, to describe the context in a bit more detail, and how it impacted upon you. This should take no more than 6 minutes of your time.
  • At the end of the study there is a short follow up survey of wellbeing to book-end the study period. This should take less than 6 minutes.
  • The study will run for 6 weeks (so a maximum time commitment of 6 minutes/week for 6 weeks plus 5-6 minutes for the bookend-questionnaires at the start and finish of the study).

Often it is at busy times that stress is most potent, and we want to capture this as close as we can to the events concerned.

We have set things up in this way in order to allow you to respond quickly to the first trigger even if you are  busy.  Often it is at these busy times that stress is most potent, and we want to capture this as close as we can to the events concerned. Using the two-stage response allows you to then give a more detailed reflection on the events when you have time.  Of course if you can do both at the same time that is fine – the second email is immediately sent after the trigger survey is submitted so you can just go straight on and complete the second 6-mintue survey.

The event sampling design allows you to make small contributions to the research each week.  That way even if you cannot complete the questions in one week you can still help in other weeks and your contribution is not all or nothing. Importantly it also allows us to get closer to the events of interest and to sample those events and experiences more widely than would otherwise be possible.  We hope that you will find this a satisfying way to contribute to the research.

For this study we are looking for medical students (both pre-clinical and clinical years), and trainee doctors within both general and specialist training (interns, residents, house officers, JMO’s, specialist trainees). We are also looking to include medical workers in other professions (nurses, specialist technicians, allied health workers).