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Supporting a doctor in difficulty

The majority of doctors will thrive within a supportive environment and transition safely and successfully back to work.

However, a small number of individuals may find returning to work more difficult. It is important to try to identify those who may be struggling as early as possible.

The causes for problems with returning to work can be complex and so it is useful to consider any possible reasons and formulate action plans to help improve their progress (see flow chart below)12.

If the problem persists or there are concerns regarding patient safety, the issue will require a multifaceted approach between clinical tutors, supervisors and HR and may require escalation to the deanery or other regulating bodies12.

Further information is available from:

Flowchart on supporting doctors in difficulty

1. Early identification of problems

Look for ‘early warning signs’

E.g. Low work rate, lack of engagement in educational process

 2. Establish and clarify circumstances

Initiate early, effective discussions

Form realistic learning plans

3. Explore underlying causes

E.g. Clinical, personal, sickness/ill health, environmental

If problems persist, can involve:

Modified from Managing Trainees in Difficulty (version 3): Practical Advice for Educational and Clinical Supervisors. NACT UK: Supporting Excellence in Medical Education. October 2013