Konkin J, Grave L, Cockburn E, et al. Exploration of rural physicians’ lived experience of practising outside their usual scope of practice to provide access to essential medical care (clinical courage): an international phenomenological study. BMJ Open2020;10:e037705. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2020-037705
A hermeneutic phenomenological study (look it up or read the methods) undertaken by a group of prominent rural health leaders, most of them well known to a us in Aotearoa. This qualitative study uses interviews with rural doctors to explore a fundamental part of rural medicine, practicing outside your comfort zone aka ‘clinical courage’. The investigators identified a number of features of clinical courage:
the commitment to deliver the care your community needs;
understanding and making the most of the resources at hand (limited as they are);
consciously testing and understanding your limits;
once you have decided that ‘its needs done’ and ‘you are the best person available to do it’, having the confidence to get on and act;
the importance of supportive rural colleagues in maintaining clinical courage.
The themes will resonate strongly with those working rurally and form a useful insight for those involved in educating the rural workforce.
Comment kindly from Associate Professor Garry Nixon
Objectives: Rural doctors describe consistent pressure to provide extended care beyond the limits of their formal training in order to meet the needs of the patients and communities they serve. This study explored the lived experience of rural doctors when they practise outside their usual scope of practice to provide medical care for people who would otherwise not have access to essential clinical services.
Design: A hermeneutic phenomenological study.
Setting: An international rural medicine conference.
Participants: All doctors attending the conference who practised medicine in rural/remote areas in a predominantly English-speaking community were eligible to participate; 27 doctors were recruited.
Interventions: Semi-structured interviews were conducted. The transcripts were initially read and analysed by individual researchers before they were read aloud to the group to explore meanings more fully. Two researchers then reviewed the transcripts to develop the results section which was then rechecked by the broader group.
Primary outcome measure: An understanding of the lived experiences of clinical courage.
Results: Participants provided in-depth descriptions of experiences we have termed clinical courage. This phenomenon included the following features: Standing up to serve anybody and everybody in the community; Accepting uncertainty and persistently seeking to prepare; Deliberately understanding and marshalling resources in the context; Humbly seeking to know one’s own limits; Clearing the cognitive hurdle when something needs to be done for your patient; Collegial support to stand up again.
Conclusion: This study elucidated six features of the phenomenon of clinical courage through the narratives of the lived experience of rural generalist doctors.
Rural post-graduate society:
We are still seeking feedback on developing a voluntary post-graduate rural society that will help fund exisiting CME activities that are free to access and allow development of future activities.