Role modelling: is it the key to shaping the future GP? Understanding the lived experience of a powerful educational phenomenon

Talk Code: 
Lily Lamb
Lamb, E I. Alberti, H.



Role modelling is a powerful phenomenon in medical education, with the potential to attract and deter future doctors from careers in general practice, and with the ability to shape the development of the future professional. Destination GP (RCGP, 2016) and By choice not by Chance (Wass, 2016) both highlighted the impact of role models in supporting students towards the specialty, but there is a lack of understanding of the individual lived experience of the role modelling process. This study sought to explore this crucial relationship, from the perspective of a group of trainees who had made a decision to choose GP.

The approach

Recognising the individualistic nature of the experience of role modelling, this study was approached from an interpretative perspective, employing Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Semi structured interviews with three GP trainees were undertaken via Zoom, these were recorded and transcribed, and analysed using IPA analysis.


Several key themes emerged from the interview data, these included the factors that make someone a role model, positive and negative behaviours, the GP as a human, gender difference, learning from role modelling and primary versus secondary care role models. Overarching concepts included the influence of the role modelling process on evolving personal and professional identity, motivation towards a career in GP and the dynamic between role model and organisational culture.


Our findings highlight the importance of conscious role modelling, and the impact of witnessed negative behaviours. Those who act as role models must be aware of the potential power of their interactions and be able to demonstrate those attributes seen as positive, such as being open to showing the human behind the clinician and showing respect to their colleagues. We also highlight that future doctors are most likely to identify role models who are similar to themselves, action should be taken to ensure that those responsible for teaching general practice represent the diversity of the future workforce.


Funding acknowledgement: 
Lily Lamb is funded by the National Institute of Health Research as an In Practice Fellow.