Learning the ropes: strategies program directors use to facilitate organizational socialization of newcomer residents, a qualitative study

Gerbrich Galema*, Robbert Duvivier, Jan Pols, Debbie Jaarsma, Gotz Wietasch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
91 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Many residents experience their transitions, such as from medical student to resident, as demanding and stressful. The challenges they face are twofold: coping with changes in tasks or responsibilities and performing (new) social roles. This process of 'learning the ropes' is known as Organizational Socialization (OS). Although there is substantial literature on transitions from the perspective of residents, the voices of program directors (PDs) who facilitate and guide residents through the organizational socialization process have not yet been explored. PDs' perspectives are important, since PDs are formally responsible for Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) and contribute, directly or indirectly, to residents' socialization process. Using the lens of OS, we explored what strategies PDs use to facilitate organizational socialization of newcomer residents.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 17 PDs of different specialties. We used a theory-informing inductive data analysis study design, comprising an inductive thematic analysis, a deductive interpretation of the results through the lens of OS and, subsequently, an inductive analysis to identify overarching insights.

Results: We identified six strategies PDs used to facilitate organizational socialization of newcomer residents and uncovered two overarching insights. First, PDs varied in the extent to which they planned their guidance. Some PDs planned socialization as an explicit learning objective and assigned residents' tasks and responsibilities accordingly, making it an intended program outcome. However, socialization was also facilitated by social interactions in the workplace, making it an unintended program outcome. Second, PDs varied in the extent to which they adapted their strategies to the newcomer residents. Some PDs used individualized strategies tailored to individual residents' needs and skills, particularly in cases of poor performance, by broaching and discussing the issue or adjusting tasks and responsibilities. However, PDs also used workplace strategies requiring residents to adjust to the workplace without much intervention, which was often viewed as an implicit expectation.

Conclusions: PDs' used both intentional and unintentional strategies to facilitate socialization in residents, which may imply that socialization can occur irrespective of the PD's strategy. PDs' strategies varied from an individual-centered to a workplace-centered approach to socialization. Further research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of residents' perceptions of PD's efforts to facilitate their socialization process during transitions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number247
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 5-Apr-2022


  • Faculty development
  • Newcomer adjustment
  • Organizational socialization
  • Postgraduate medical education
  • Program directors
  • Transitions

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