We aimed to formally examine the attitudes and emotions engendered in a group of senior house officers (SHOs) working in learning disability, by means of focus groups held both during and immediately after placement. Three hour-long focus group sessions, facilitated by a consultant psychotherapist, were recorded on audio- and video-tape. Transcripts of the audiotapes were examined in order to identify themes and categorise them in terms of attitudes, behaviours and emotions.
Many of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours identified showed negative themes originating from the trainees, particularly towards themselves and patients. The trainees only twice perceived themselves to be the recipients of any positive themes.
Addressing these negative experiences as a potential problem might enrich and enhance trainees' experiences of their learning disability placements. A Balint group could be a starting point for this. If the problem were addressed, recruitment to and retention within the specialty might improve.