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Mind the (support) gap: supporting academic trainees through peer networks
  1. Carmen Soto1,
  2. Verena Walsh2
  1. 1Department of Paediatric Oncology, University College Hospitals of London Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, York, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carmen Soto, Department of Paediatric Oncology, University College Hospitals of London Foundation Trust, London NW1 2BU, UK; doctorcarmensoto{at}


Academic Foundation Programme (AFP) trainees face challenges in making the most of the research opportunities available to them. Improved support for trainees throughout the AFP may result in improved outcomes and increase retention of clinical academic trainees. Peer support may address some of the challenges faced by AFP trainees at this early stage of their careers. A Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) approach was used to design and implement a peer support programme for AFP trainees in paediatrics. Feedback from recent AFP graduates was used to identify challenges and possible solutions, which were then incorporated into the programme. Trainee views informed the format of the support offered, especially the role of trainee coordinator and importance of regular meetings. The PDSA approach facilitated constant re-evaluation of the programme, which continued to evolve over several years. Peer support is highly valued by AFP trainees, who use the network to obtain information, as well as concrete assistance, and emotional support from their peers. Such networks are not self-perpetuating, and a significant commitment is required from fellow trainees to ensure the success of the network.

  • quality improvement
  • academic
  • medical education
  • health services research
  • paediatric staffing

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  • Contributors CS conducted the primary phase of data collection; initiated, designed and led the project; and is the primary author of this paper. VW conducted the secondary phase of data collection; acted as project coordinator; and contributed to the writing and editing of this paper.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Full details of the survey reported here are available by contacting CS directly.