Enabling uptake and sustainability of supervision roles by women GPs in Australia: a narrative analysis of interviews

Belinda Gabrielle O’Sullivan, Rebecca Kippen, Elisabeth Wearne, Glen Wallace, Carla Taylor, Samia R. Toukhsati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Worldwide, the proportion of women entering careers in medicine is increasing. To ensure diversity and capacity in the general practice (“GP”) supervision workforce, a greater understanding from the perspective of women GPs engaged in or considering the clinical supervision of trainee doctors is important. This narrative inquiry aims to explore the uptake and sustainability of supervision roles for women GPs in the Australian context. Methods: Qualitative interviews with Australian women GPs were conducted between July and September 2021. Women GPs were selected to represent a range of demographics, practice contexts, and supervision experience to promote broad perspectives. Narrative analysis drew on participant perspectives, allowing emergent stories to be explored using story arcs based on the characters, settings, problems, actions, and resolutions. These stories were evaluated by a broad research team and a high level of agreement of the final narratives and counter-narratives was achieved. Results: Of the 25 women who enrolled, 17 completed interviews. Six narratives emerged, including: power and control, pay, time, other life commitments, quality of supervision, and supervisor identity. These represented significant intersecting issues with the potential to impact the uptake and sustainability of supervision by women GPs. Some women GPs reported a lack of agency to make decisions about their role in supervision and were not remunerated for teaching. Uptake and sustainability of supervision was constrained by other life commitments, which could be buffered by team-sharing arrangements and a supportive practice. Although adding a burden of time atop their complex and sensitive consultations, women GPs were committed to being available to registrars and supervising at a high standard. To foster high quality supervision, women GPs were interested in up-skilling resources, building experience and harnessing support networks. Women sensed imposter syndrome when negotiating a supervisor identity, which could be managed by explicitly valuing their contribution. Conclusion: The findings can inform the development of more specific resources, supports and structures to enable women GPs in Australia to uptake and sustain the supervision of trainee doctors at a level they find both acceptable and rewarding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number398
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Doctor
  • Family medicine
  • Female
  • General practice
  • Medicine
  • Primary care
  • Supervisor
  • Training
  • Women

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