Reflecting on and using feedback are important for physicians’ continuous professional development (CPD). A common format is the discussion of multisource feedback (MSF) in a one-on-one session with a trusted peer or coach. A new approach is to discuss MSF during a peer group session moderated by a professional facilitator. This qualitative study explored how physicians experience participation in these peer group sessions in the context of their CPD.
Between March and July 2018, 26 physicians were interviewed about their experiences in a peer group session. These physicians represented 13 monospecialty physician groups from 5 general hospitals in the Netherlands. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed iteratively, following the interpretative phenomenological approach.
Participation was experienced as a process of disclosing and sharing personal reflections with peers while striking a balance between interpersonal proximity to and distance from peers. Sharing reflections with peers rendered the feedback more meaningful, deepened collegial relationships, and created a sense of urgency for improvement. Improvement goals were mostly related to relational fine-tuning in collaboration; goals related to individual career management remained in the background. Influential factors for the perceived effectiveness of the group sessions were related to the facilitator’s expertise, group size, continuity and quality of collegial relationships, personal vulnerabilities, and the context of CPD policy.
Peer group sessions offered interactivity and established a clear link between individual physicians and their work environments. Sharing reflections on MSF in a peer group setting provided physicians with nuanced insight into their professional performance and fostered a community spirit that supported the implementation of intended changes. Future research should focus on the role of group dynamics and communication strategies and the application of coaching principles, such as drawing up a detailed plan of action and monitoring the follow-up process.