Usefulness of a virtual community of practice and Web 2.0 tools for general practice training: experiences and expectations of general practitioner registrars and supervisors
General practice training is a community of practice in which novices and experts share knowledge. However, there are barriers to knowledge sharing for general practioner (GP) registrars, including geographic and workplace isolation. Virtual communities of practice (VCoP) can be effective in overcoming these barriers using social media tools. The present study examined the perceived usefulness, features and barriers to implementing a VCoP for GP training. Following a survey study of GP registrars and supervisors on VCoP feasibility, a qualitative telephone interview study was undertaken within a regional training provider. Participants with the highest Internet usage in the survey study were selected. Two researchers worked independently conducting thematic analysis using manual coding of transcriptions, later discussing themes until agreement was reached. Seven GP registrars and three GP supervisors participated in the study (average age 38.2 years). Themes emerged regarding professional isolation, potential of social media tools to provide peer support and improve knowledge sharing, and barriers to usage, including time, access and skills. Frequent Internet-using GP registrars and supervisors perceive a VCoP for GP training as a useful tool to overcome professional isolation through improved knowledge sharing. Given that professional isolation can lead to decreased rural work and reduced hours, a successful VCoP may have a positive outcome on the rural medical workforce.