GP registrars’ experiences of participating in a GP surgery ‘community of practice’ during COVID-19 – a narrative study of their learning through identity formation

Talk Code: 
Sarah Pocknell
Author institutions: 
University College London, Queen Mary University of London


The RCGP curriculum states that GP trainees should learn how to work within organisations and systems. However, there is a lack of understanding of how learning experiences and environments facilitate the development of this capability. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for radical change in primary care, such as the adoption of remote consulting. To deliver such rapid change, primary care has demonstrated its ability to function as a ‘learning organisation’, collectively learning to adapt to the pandemic. The learning organisation shares many features with the communities of practice sociocultural theory of learning. As learners move from the periphery and become ‘legitimate participants’ of the community, their participation and socialisation contribute to their identity development as a new member of this community.

The aim of this study is to improve understanding of how GP trainees’ learning occurs within the GP community of practice. This study will explore GP trainees’ experiences of participating in a GP community of practice during the Covid-19 pandemic to elucidate how this has informed their learning and identity development as they transition from trainees to independent practitioners. This will provide insight into how to support learning for capability within rapidly evolving organisations and systems. This is important in ensuring postgraduate education delivers flexible, adaptable learning experiences, equipping trainees to navigate the shifting landscape of healthcare systems throughout their careers.



Narrative interviews will be conducted with 8 – 10 GP registrars in primary care, purposively sampled. Participating registrars will have spent a minimum of 7 months in general practice, facilitating an in-depth study of professional identity development within this context. This work is grounded in a social constructionist epistemology, exploring how identities are shaped through social interaction and discourse. Narrative methodology has been used extensively in the medical education literature to investigate professional identity development, particularly as narrative approaches allow one to explore the social, temporal and organisational context of individuals’ experiences.


This work is in progress. By privileging participants’ stories of their experiences, I will explore how they use their stories to ‘position’ themselves in their experiences and what this social performance of story-telling tells us about their learning through identity formation within the context of the GP community of practice.


This in-depth, narrative study will provide detailed insight into GP trainees’ experiences of participating and learning in general practice during the pandemic. This will enable educationalists to adapt and transform postgraduate education in primary care, facilitate GP trainees’ development of capability within evolving healthcare organisations and meet their learning needs as they join the primary care community of practice.

Submitted by: 
Sarah Pocknell
Funding acknowledgement: 
This work represents my dissertation for an MSc in Healthcare Professions Education at UCL; I am currently an Academic Clinical Fellow at QMUL (NIHR funded)