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.
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.
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.
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; development; multi-professional; research; trainees.