The 2020 medical graduates project: what we are doing

It’s just three weeks since the first batch was sent out, and those who responded to that will be getting the link to the second questionnaire in the next few days. But if you’ve not yet completed the first questionnaire, or indeed nor signed up, there is still plenty of time.

Since the last post, we’ve been busy sending out the first questionnaire link as people continue to sign up. We’ve also been sending out reminders in case people have missed the first email link – the intention isn’t to hassle, we know how easy it is for emails to get buried!

In this post, we’re going to explain a little about the design of the study and the methods we’re using.

The overall aim of the study is to examine the experience of all medical graduates in 2020. The circumstances of graduating and starting work during and after the peak of the pandemic in the UK are unusual, whether people are starting F1 in August as they would have expected, or started an FiY1 post as early as April. We recognise though that those in FiY1 posts have the additional novelty of working in what is essentially a brand new job role.

The questionnaire study therefore has two elements – a longitudinal examination of the experience of FiY1 as people progress through it, and a comparison of how those who have done an FiY1 post, and those who have not, feel at the start of F1. (Later in the year we will be interviewing some respondents to hear in more detail their reflections on the experience of starting work in these circumstances).

Work and wellbeing

We have described the study as being about the ‘work and wellbeing’ of newly qualified doctors.

The questionnaire people are completing at the moment asks about the work people are doing using items largely derived from the GMC’s Outcomes for Graduates document. These questions are not to gauge competence or confidence, but to establish a picture of what FiY1s are doing in these new roles. Other questions ask about where people are working, and their exposure to different types of clinical uncertainty, and how ‘tolerant’ they are of uncertainty.

The ‘wellbeing’ items are derived from validated scales in the literature. We will talk about those in more detail in later posts, but they all provide measures of different facets of how people are feeling about themselves and their work. They are not clinical tools, and do not make any inferences about mental health, but provide a means of associating emotional wellbeing and other factors.

Our analysis of these questionnaires will consider how these wellbeing measures vary with different clinical experiences, and with demographic variables such as gender and age. As we collect longitudinal data in coming weeks, we will see if these measures change over time, and whether this is affected by changes in clinical work.

FiY1, in your own words

Alongside the questionnaire currently being completed, we are also keen to hear FiY1s individual stories. We have a page dedicated to free text stories of the good, bad and indifferent experiences of FiY1 – if you sign up we will send a link directly to that page, as well as that to the questionnaire.

The start of data collection…

It’s always an exciting/nerve-racking moment when a project moves into a data collection phase. A lot of planning, drafting and discussion goes into designing and developing a questionnaire and working out how to reach participants, but the collection of data is when research goes from being an abstract idea, into something generating new knowledge.

The first questionnaire in this study will be distributed over the next couple of weeks to those who have signed up. The first tranche was sent to over 300 participants on Monday 1 July, and we are pleased to have already had responses from over 20% of that sample, and we expect to see those numbers increasing. A second tranche will be distributed over the next couple of days to those who have signed up since Monday.

The design of our study (of which more in a later post) means that we can collect data throughout the FiY1 period. Even if you miss one questionnaire for whatever reason (because you have not signed up yet, haven’t started FiY1, or just forgot) you can still contribute to the remainder of the study. The more representation we have from FiY doctors across the UK, the more confident we can be that we have a true picture of your experience at this extraordinary time.

You can still sign up at If you are an FiY1 who has signed up but not received a questionnaire, please get in touch.

UK-wide support for the 2020 Medical Graduates study

We are extremely pleased to have confirmed support for the project from the United Kingdom Foundation Programme Office, and the medical training agencies of the four nations of the UK: Health Education England, NHS Education Scotland, Health Education and Improvement Wales, and the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency.

An email invitation to the project has been distributed by the UKFPO, NES, HEIW and NIMDTA, to supplement that already cascaded to medical schools by the Medical Schools Council. We are seeing a good response to these emails, with around 10% of those in FiY1 posts already signed up, but we hope to increase this in the next week or so.

If you are an FiY1 doctor, or a 2020 graduate starting Foundation Programme in August 2020, please do sign up – your contribution to this national study is very valuable.