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Professional Responsibilities and Personal Impacts

Residents’ Experiences as Participants in Education Research

Devine, Luke A., MD, MHPE; Ginsburg, Shiphra, MD, PhD; Stenfors, Terese, PhD; Cil, Tulin D., MD, MEd; McDonald-Blumer, Heather, MD, MScCH; Walsh, Catharine M., MD, MEd, PhD; Stroud, Lynfa, MD, MEd

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002411
Research Reports

Purpose Although the field of medical education research is growing and residents are increasingly recruited to participate as subjects in research studies, little is known about their experiences. The goal of this study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of residents who are study participants in medical education research.

Method A phenomenographic approach was chosen to examine the range of residents’ experiences as research participants. A maximum variation sampling strategy was used to identify residents with diverse experiences. Semistructured interviews that explored experiences as research participants were conducted with 19 residents in internal medicine, general surgery, and pediatrics at the University of Toronto in 2015–2016.

Results The perceptions and experiences of participants fell into two categories. First, participation was seen as a professional responsibility to advance the profession, including a desire to improve future educational practices and a sense of responsibility to contribute to the academic cause. Second, the experience was noted for its personal impact, including benefits (e.g., receiving monetary incentives or novel educational experiences) and risks (e.g., coercion and breaches of confidentiality). The time required to participate in a study was identified as one of the most important factors affecting willingness to participate and the impact of participation.

Conclusions Being a participant in medical education research can be perceived in different ways. Understanding the view of resident participants is important to optimize potential benefits and minimize risks and negative consequences for them, thus fostering ready participation and high-quality research.

L.A. Devine is assistant professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, and simulation lead, HoPingKong Centre, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

S. Ginsburg is professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

T. Stenfors is associate professor, Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

T.D. Cil is assistant professor, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

H. McDonald-Blumer is associate professor and Rheumatology Departmental Division director, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

C.M. Walsh is staff gastroenterologist, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, educational researcher, Learning Institute, and scientist-track investigator, Child Health Evaluative Sciences, Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids); and scientist, Wilson Centre for Research in Education, and assistant professor of paediatrics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

L. Stroud is associate professor, Department of Medicine, and researcher, Wilson Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Funding/Support: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada/Associated Medical Services CanMEDS Research and Development Grant.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: This study was approved by the University of Toronto Health Sciences Research Ethics Board.

Previous presentations: Preliminary work was presented at the International Conference on Residency Education (ICRE) September 30, 2016, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Correspondence should be addressed to Luke A. Devine, University of Toronto, 600 University Ave., Suite 436, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5G 1X5; telephone: (416) 586-4800, ext. 2471; e-mail:

© 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges