Purpose: Changing the current geographical maldistribution of the medical workforce is important for global health. Research regarding programs that train doctors for work with disadvantaged, rural populations is needed. This paper explores one approach of remote supervision of registrars in isolated rural practice. Researching how learning occurs without on-site supervision may also reveal other key elements of postgraduate education.
Methods: Thematic analysis of in-depth interviews exploring 11 respondents’ experiences of learning via remote supervision.
Results: Remote supervision created distinctive learning environments. Respondents’ attributes interacted with external supports to influence whether and how their learning was promoted or impeded. Registrars with clinical and/or life experience, who were insightful and motivated to direct their learning, turned the challenges of isolated practice into opportunities that accelerated their professional development.
Discussion: Remote supervision was not necessarily problematic but instead provided rich learning for doctors training in and for the context where they were needed. Registrars learnt through clinical responsibility for defined populations and longitudinal, supportive supervisory relationships. Responsibility and continuity may be as important as supervisory proximity for experienced registrars.