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Generational and occupational differences in human factors knowledge and awareness: a comparison study
  1. Jonathan Blair Thomas Herron1,
  2. CM Ferris2 and
  3. AD Gilliam1
  1. 1 Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, UK
  2. 2 Royal Victoria Infirmary, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, Royal Navy, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Capt Jonathan Blair Thomas Herron, Plastic Surgery, Department of Pharmacy Health and Well-being, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, BFPO 806, UK; herronjonny{at}


Introduction Increasing healthcare sector litigation, accountability and governance has resulted in the identification of human factors (HF) as a common source of error. Both NHS and military doctors must have awareness of HF to enhance safety and productivity. There is limited published evidence examining knowledge of HF in these two healthcare professional groups.

Methods Doctors of all grades and specialties across the NHS and 3 military groups including the Defence Deanery within the UK were invited to complete a 10-item web-based survey. Questions focused on training undertaken, HF knowledge and potential future training needs.

Results The survey link was emailed to 250 military and 1400 NHS doctors, 191 military and 776 NHS responded (response rate: 76% and 55%, respectively). Military doctors above foundation trainees are more familiar with HF, have had more training and recognise a requirement for additional training. Military foundation trainees had similar responses to their NHS colleagues. Doctors who had not undertaken any HF training are less likely to appreciate its value, with almost 60% of senior NHS doctors reporting no training. Foundation trainees have more training in HF than their senior peers when military seniors are excluded and more frequently identified a need for further training. Junior doctors identified stress, fatigue, communication and leadership more frequently, with seniors identifying work environment and music in theatre correctly more often.

Conclusion Non-training grade doctors are less likely to seek HF training. Military doctors are more familiar with HF and have undertaken more training. Given the role of HF in communication, human error, potential litigation, stress, conflict and gross negligence manslaughter convictions, further education is vital.

  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • change management
  • health & safety
  • qualitative research

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  • Contributors JH designed the study with AG input. JH, AG and CF collected data. JH wrote the paper with input from AG and CF and all authors reviewed for final submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.