Introduction: Telephone talk between clinicians represents a substantial workplace activity in postgraduate clinical education, yet junior doctors receive little training in goal-directed, professional telephone communication. Aim: To assess educational needs for telephone talk and develop a simulation-based educational intervention. Methods: Thematic analysis of 17 semi-structured interviews with doctors-in-training from various training levels and specialties. Results: We identified essential elements to incorporate into simulation-based telephone talk, including common challenging situations for junior doctors as well as explicit and informal aspects that promote learning. These elements have implications for both junior doctors and clinical supervisors, including: (a) explicit teaching and feedback practices and (b) informal conversational interruptions and questions. The latter serve as “disguised” feedback, which aligns with recent conceptualizations of feedback as “performance relevant information”. Conclusions: In addition to preparing clinical supervisors to support learning through telephone talk, we propose several potential educational strategies: (a) embedding telephone communication skills throughout simulation activities and (b) developing stand-alone curricular elements to sensitize junior doctors to “disguised” feedback during telephone talk as a mechanism to augment future workplace learning, i.e. 'learning how to learn' through simulation.
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