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“I’d been like freaking out the whole night”: exploring emotion regulation based on junior doctors’ narratives

  • Lundin, Robert M.1
  • Bashir, Kiran1
  • Bullock, Alison2
  • Kostov, Camille E.1
  • Mattick, Karen L.3
  • Rees, Charlotte E.4
  • Monrouxe, Lynn V.5
  • 1 Cardiff University, School of Medicine, Wales, UK , Wales (United Kingdom)
  • 2 Cardiff University, School of Social Sciences, Wales, UK , Wales (United Kingdom)
  • 3 University of Exeter, Centre for Research in Professional Learning, Graduate School of Education, England, UK , England (United Kingdom)
  • 4 Monash University, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Melbourne, Australia , Melbourne (Australia)
  • 5 Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou, Chang Gung Medical Education Research Centre, No.5, Fuxing St., Guishan District, Taoyuan City, 33305, Taiwan, ROC , Taoyuan City (Taiwan)
Published Article
Advances in Health Sciences Education
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Mar 17, 2017
DOI: 10.1007/s10459-017-9769-y
Springer Nature


The importance of emotions within medical practice is well documented. Research suggests that how clinicians deal with negative emotions can affect clinical decision-making, health service delivery, clinician well-being, attentiveness to patient care and patient satisfaction. Previous research has identified the transition from student to junior doctor (intern) as a particularly challenging time. While many studies have highlighted the presence of emotions during this transition, how junior doctors manage emotions has rarely been considered. We conducted a secondary analysis of narrative data in which 34 junior doctors, within a few months of transitioning into practice, talked about situations for which they felt prepared or unprepared for practice (preparedness narratives) through audio diaries and interviews. We examined these data deductively (using Gross’ theory of emotion regulation: ER) and inductively to answer the following research questions: (RQ1) what ER strategies do junior doctors describe in their preparedness narratives? and (RQ2) at what point in the clinical situation are these strategies narrated? We identified 406 personal incident narratives: 243 (60%) contained negative emotion, with 86 (21%) also containing ER. Overall, we identified 137 ER strategies, occurring prior to (n = 29, 21%), during (n = 74, 54%) and after (n = 34, 25%) the situation. Although Gross’ theory captured many of the ER strategies used by junior doctors, we identify further ways in which this model can be adapted to fully capture the range of ER strategies participants employed. Further, from our analysis, we believe that raising medical students’ awareness of how they can handle stressful situations might help smooth the transition to becoming a doctor and be important for later practice.

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