La Trobe
1180601_O'Sullivan,B_2021.pdf (526.88 kB)
Download file

Exploring attributes of high-quality clinical supervision in general practice through interviews with peer-recognised GP supervisors

Download (526.88 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 13.10.2021, 01:05 by B O’Sullivan, Helen HicksonHelen Hickson, R Kippen, G Wallace
Background: Clinical supervision in general practice is critical for enabling registrars (GP trainees) to provide safe medical care, develop skills and enjoy primary care careers. However, this largely depends on the quality of supervision provided. There has been limited research describing what encompasses quality within GP clinical supervision, making it difficult to promote best practice. This study aimed to explore the attributes of high-quality clinical supervision for GP registrars. Methods: In 2019–20, 22 semi-structured interviews were conducted with GP supervisors who were peer-nominated as best practice supervisors, by Regional GP Training Organisations and GP Colleges in Australia. Purposeful sampling sought respondents with diverse characteristics including gender and career stage, practice size, state/territory and rurality. Interviews were conducted by video-consultation and recorded. De-identified transcripts were independently coded using iterative, inductive thematic analyses to derive themes that reflected quality in GP supervision. Results: Seven themes emerged. Participants understood the meaning of quality supervision based on their experience of being supervised when they were a registrar, and from reflecting and learning from other supervisors and their own supervision experiences. Quality was reflected by actively structuring GP placements to optimise all possible learning opportunities, building a secure and caring relationship with registrars as the basis for handling challenging situations such as registrar mistakes. Quality also encompassed sustaining and enhancing registrar learning by drawing on the input of the whole practice team who had different skills and supervision approaches. Strong learner-centred approaches were used, where supervisors adjusted support and intervention in real-time, as registrar competence emerged in different areas. Quality also involved building the registrar’s professional identity and capabilities for safe and independent decision-making and encouraging registrars to reflect on situations before giving quality feedback, to drive learning. Conclusions: This study, although exploratory, provides a foundation for understanding the quality of clinical supervision in general practice, from the perspective of peer-recognised GP supervisors. Understanding and adopting quality within GP supervision may be improved by GPs sharing exemplars of best practice and having opportunities for professional reflection. The findings could be used as a point of reference for devising GP supervisor curriculum, resources and professional development activities.


The authors were employed by GP Supervisors Australia which is funded by the Australian Government's General Practice Training Program to develop research of importance to supporting high quality general practice training.


Publication Date



BMC Medical Education



Article Number








Rights Statement

© The Author(s) 2021 This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Usage metrics