The educational needs of staff grade doctors and dentists in Scotland

H Rippin, E G Buckley
Health Bulletin 1996, 54 (4): 318-31

OBJECTIVE: Since its introduction in 1990, the Staff Grade has expanded to comprise almost 10% of the career grade establishment in Scotland. A study of this new grade was carried out to determine its progress and whether educational needs were being met.

DESIGN: A questionnaire was sent to all doctors and dentists in the Staff Grade asking about reasons for applying; working environment; educational needs and perceptions of the grade.

SUBJECTS: In Scotland 45% of Staff Grade doctors and dentists are male and 55% are female. The majority of posts are held by UK qualified women and overseas qualified men.

RESULTS: Post holders are well qualified. 56% hold at least one full Membership or Fellowship qualification. The main reasons for applying for a Staff Grade post are domestic commitments and the desire for a permanent post. Staff Grade doctors are often used to strengthen 'middle grade' services and cover awkward times. The majority feel the educational content of their job is sufficient. Of those who were dissatisfied, most complained of a lack of formal education. In general the doctors and dentists feel they are viewed with respect by colleagues. Comments showed that senior staff are more positive towards the grade than juniors. 21% of Staff Grade doctors and dentists still hope to achieve Consultant status, although the greater majority do not think it likely they will reach this level.

CONCLUSIONS: In the short term the introduction of the grade has been a success. The service needs which otherwise would be difficult to meet have been covered by the appointment of Staff Grade doctors and dentists. For the individual the Staff Grade has often been the answer to personal rather than professional aspirations. Some battle against colleagues' misconceptions that the grade is for 'failed Consultants'. Isolation is a problem for others. There is a desire to keep knowledge up to date, but heavy workload and problems in scheduling prevent many from attending educational activities. If the Staff Grade is to be an attractive option in the long term, there needs to be some form of career progression for the doctors and dentists within it.

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