Introduction The importance of shared or distributed leadership in healthcare is recognised; however, trainees, early career professionals and others for whom the exercise of leadership is a recent development report being underprepared for leadership roles. Trainee clinical scientists exemplify such groups, being both early in their career and in a profession for which clinical leadership is less well established. Their insights can inform understanding of appropriate forms of leadership development for health professionals.
Methods We explored perceptions of leadership and its development for trainee clinical scientists on the UK preregistration Scientist Training Programme through semi-structured interviews with trainees, training officers, academic educators and lead healthcare scientists; and through an online questionnaire based on the UK multiprofessional Clinical Leadership Competency Framework (CLCF). Responses were analysed statistically or thematically as appropriate.
Results Forty interviews were undertaken and 267 valid questionnaire responses received. Stakeholders recognised clinical expertise as integral to leadership; otherwise their perceptions aligned with CLCF domains and ‘shared leadership’ philosophy. They consider learning by ‘doing’ real tasks (leadership activities) key to competency acquisition, with leadership education (eg, observation and theory) complementing these. Workplace affordances, such as quality of departmental leadership, training officer engagement and degree of patient contact affect trainees’ ability to undertake leadership activities.
Conclusions From our research, we have developed an enhanced model for leadership development for trainee and early career clinical scientists that may have wider applicability to other health professions and groups not traditionally associated with clinical leadership. To foster their leadership, we argue that improving workplace affordances is more important than improving leadership education.
- clinical leadership
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request.
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Contributors All authors have contributed substantially to the conception and design of the study. MS and JP collated questionnaire responses, conducted the interviews and undertook statistical and thematic analysis with the support and assistance of SGB, ID and SG. All authors have contributed to the drafting of the article and to its critical revision; and all agree to be accountable for the accuracy and integrity of all parts of the work. All have read and approved the final manuscript. As guarantor, SGB accepts full responsibility for the conduct of the study, its findings and publication.
Funding This study was funded by a grant from the National School of Healthcare Science, part of Health Education England, UK, reference University of Birmingham account number 19100.
Competing interests When this study was undertaken, SG was Head of Assessment and Research Evaluation at the National School for Healthcare Science, Health Education England.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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