Professional learning, organisational change and clinical leadership development outcomes

Riikka Hofmann (Corresponding author), Jan Vermunt

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    INTRODUCTION: The aim of this study is to develop a conceptually sound outcome model for clinical leadership (CL) development in healthcare, linking individual professional learning and organisational change. Frontline doctors' CL is often offered as a solution to healthcare challenges worldwide. However, there is a paucity of rigorous evidence of effectiveness of CL development, or theories supporting it. Importantly, the literature currently lacks robust outcome models for CL development, impeding robust impact evaluations.

    METHODS: This multi-source, sequential integrated mixed-methods study draws on systematic content analysis of NHS policy documents and empirical data from a CL programme evaluation study: exploratory factor analysis (EFA) of 142 participants' survey responses and thematic qualitative analysis of 30 in-depth participant interviews across six cohorts. Through integrating findings from the three analyses we examine: (a) the expected organisational outcomes of CL, (b) individual learning outcomes of CL development, and (c) the mechanisms linking the two.

    RESULTS: The policy analysis identified three desired solutions to key healthcare problems which CL is expected to offer: Speeding up good practice, Inter-professional collaboration and dialogue, and Change and transformation. Triangulating the EFA results with the qualitative analysis produced five individual outcome constructs: Self-efficacy, Engaging stakeholders, Agency, Boundary-crossing expertise, and Willingness to take risks and to learn from risks and failures. Further qualitative analysis uncovered key mechanisms linking the individual outcomes with the desired organisational changes.

    DISCUSSION: Despite significant investments into CL development in the UK and worldwide, the absence of conceptually robust and operationally specific outcome models linking individual and organisational impact impedes rigorous evaluations of programme effectiveness. Our study developed a novel individual and organisational outcome model including a theory of change for clinical leadership. Our findings further contribute to professional learning theory in medical settings by conceptualising and operationalising the mechanisms operating between individual and organisational learning outcomes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)252-265
    Number of pages14
    JournalMedical Education
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


    • professional learning
    • clinical leadership
    • professional development outcomes
    • healthcare


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