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OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to understand the role of surgical Trainee Research Collaboratives (TRCs) in conducting randomised controlled trials and identify strategies to enhance trainee engagement in trials. DESIGN: This is a mixed methods study. We used observation of TRC meetings, semi-structured interviews and an online survey to explore trainees' motivations for engagement in trials and TRCs, including barriers and facilitators. Interviews were analysed thematically, alongside observation field notes. Survey responses were analysed using descriptive statistics. Strategies to enhance TRCs were developed at a workshop by 13 trial methodologists, surgical trainees, consultants and research nurses. SETTING: This study was conducted within a secondary care setting in the UK. PARTICIPANTS: The survey was sent to registered UK surgical trainees. TRC members and linked stakeholders across surgical specialties and UK regions were purposefully sampled for interviews. RESULTS: We observed 5 TRC meetings, conducted 32 semi-structured interviews and analysed 73 survey responses. TRCs can mobilise trainees thus gaining wider access to patients. Trainees engaged with TRCs to improve patient care, surgical evidence and to help progress their careers. Trainees valued the TRC infrastructure, research expertise and mentoring. Challenges for trainees included clinical and other priorities, limited time and confidence, and recognition, especially by authorship. Key TRC strategies were consultant support, initial simple rapid studies, transparency of involvement and recognition for trainees (including authorship policies) and working with Clinical Trials Units and research nurses. A 6 min digital story on YouTube disseminated these strategies. CONCLUSION: Trainee surgeons are mostly motivated to engage with trials and TRCs. Trainee engagement in TRCs can be enhanced through building relationships with key stakeholders, maximising multi-disciplinary working and offering training and career development opportunities.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





clinical trial, medical education & training, qualitative research, surgery