Barriers and enablers to behaviour change in clinicians participating and leading research: A qualitative exploration

Dr Rachel Wenke1,2, Dr Christy Noble1,4, Dr Kelly Weir1,2,3, Professor Sharon Mickan1,2,3

1Allied Health, Clinical Governance, Education and Research, Gold Coast Health, Gold Coast, Australia, 2School of Allied Health Sciences, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia, 3Menzies Health Institute, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia, 4School of Medicine, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia


Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) are increasingly encouraged to participate in and lead research, which often requires the development of new and complex behaviours. While previous research has explored enablers and barriers to research engagement, it remains unclear how these influence behaviour change; a vital key in tailoring research development in clinicians. As such, this qualitative study aimed to explore barriers and enablers to behaviour change in AHPs participating in and leading research.


We conducted 14 semi-structured individual or group interviews with 21 AHPs employed by Gold Coast Health who had expressed an interest in participating in and/or leading research. Interview questions explored perceived barriers and enablers to research engagement, informed by the 14 domains of the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF). Transcribed interviews were coded and mapped to the TDF using NVivo. A deeper level of inductive coding was used to identify emergent themes that influenced behaviour change, according to the three key constructs of the COM-B system[1]: Capability, Opportunity and Motivation.


Barriers and enablers were identified within nine predominate domains of TDF, with most comments being coded as enablers relating to motivation or opportunity. This included positive beliefs about the consequences of research engagement, social influences including support from managers, peers and mentors, and strong motivations to develop skills and inform practice. Dominant barriers related to environmental context and resources (e.g., reduced funding or time), emotional responses of being overwhelmed and reduced perceived capability.


Behaviour change theory may be useful to understand factors influencing clinician engagement in research to help inform tailored interventions. Findings suggest clinicians’ participation in research may be enabled through maximising social influence opportunities, reiterating clinician’s beliefs about the positive consequences of research and considering the clinician’s emotional response to research when mentoring. Further practical implications of findings for clinicians, research mentors, managers and academics will be discussed.


  1. Michie S, van Stralen MM, West R. The behaviour change wheel: a new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions. Implementation science. 2011;6(1):42.


Dr Rachel Wenke completed her PhD at the University of Queensland in 2008 in the area of neurogenic communication disorders. Rachel currently works as a Senior Speech Pathologist and also as a Principal Research Fellow for Gold Coast Health, whereby she supports allied health professionals to undertake and use research within clinical practice to optimise patient care.

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