Education or regulation? Exploring our underlying conceptualisations of remediation for practising physicians

Gisèle Bourgeois-Law*, Lara Varpio, Glenn Regehr, Pim W. Teunissen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Context: The remediation of practising physicians is coming to the fore in several countries in response to increasing demands for physician accountability and quality improvement initiatives in health care. However, the profession continues to grapple with the concepts and processes of remediation, particularly for physicians in practice who struggle with performance issues related to clinical competence. This suggests that current conceptualisations of remediation might be contributing to this situation. This study therefore, explored how various administration-level stakeholders conceptualise remediation in order to construct a description of the nature and meaning of remediation. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted using purposive sampling across the range of Canadian stakeholders involved in the remediation of practising physicians, including regulatory authorities, universities, national certifying bodies and medical organisations. With the use of constructivist grounded theory processes, analysis proceeded apace with data collection in an iterative process, with initial insights guiding subsequent interviews. Results: Participants often simultaneously held two different conceptualisations of remediation: (i) remediation as part of an educational continuum involving different degrees of support, and (ii) remediation as a regulatory process removing an individual's educational autonomy. Interviewees moved between these two conceptualisations but did not always appear to be aware of doing so. These conceptualisations each had different implications regarding the degree to which remediation can be incorporated into professional processes of maintaining competence. Conclusions: Understanding that stakeholders frequently approach the complex issue of remediation with two different perspectives without conscious awareness of doing so may help to explain several challenges in the field, including the issues of what falls under the umbrella of remediation and who should be responsible for offering remediation support. Our findings suggest the need for conceptual clarity around remediation, both to ensure that we illuminate logistical dilemmas in enacting remediation and to address the stigma of ‘de-professionalisation’ that the provision of even minor educational supports (such as feedback) might invoke by association.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-284
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


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