The educational environment is as a key element for the quality of medical education . The World Federation for Medical Education has mentioned as the most important components of the educational environment: the atmosphere, the learning opportunities and the availability of facilities . Other researchers distinguish between physical environment (safety, shelter and other facilities), emotional climate (social support, absence of harassment) and intellectual climate (active participation, evidence-based learning) .
The transition to the hospital is stressful for most junior doctors. Long working hours, inadequate support from senior staff, new responsibilities, job insecurity and the fact that their mistakes are highly visible are among the most common stressors [4, 5].
Job and personal resources may buffer job demands that may lead to high-stress levels for junior doctors . Job demands are these organizational factors that require constant physical and psychological effort. Job resources are the psychological, social and organizational aspects of work (e.g. autonomy, supervisory coaching). Personal recourses are those psychological and social elements that contribute to an individuals’ ability to control and impact on his/her environment successfully [6, 7]. Social capital (SC) is a resource on both individual and ecological level that may contribute to stress reduction and junior doctors’ adaptation to the educational environment.
SC is defined as “those features of social structures-such as interpersonal trust and norms of reciprocity and mutual aid—which act as resources for individuals and facilitate collective action” . SC may help individuals’, groups’ and organizations’ function by enabling cooperative ventures and facilitating interpersonal interactions .
SC main theoretical approaches are the individualistic and the collective. According to the individualistic approach, people benefit from participating in social networks by gaining access to informational, emotional and verbal support . In the collective approach, the emphasis is given to the group or to the community. Communities or organizations rich in social interactions have better economic, health and social indices .
The main distinction concerning its’ types is made between cognitive and structural SC . Cognitive refers to perceptions, shared values, beliefs, and attitudes like trust, reciprocity, and tolerance. Structural SC refers to the way that people act in their social environment (e.g. level of participation, number of networks) . Another distinction, based in the type of the connections, is between bonding (informal networks of strong ties, like family), bringing (informal networks of weaker ties like colleagues) and linking (formal networks) SC . In both distinctions, the capacity of the individuals acting together and the potential of this cooperation is evaluated .
SC has beneficial effects for both individuals and organizations. Literature suggests an inverse relationship between higher SC and mental disorders . Additionally, it is positively associated with educational attainment  and achievement . In organizational studies, SC is positively related with job satisfaction [9, 19] and negatively with emotional exhaustion and turnover intention .
The theoretical model of the study is based on Job Demands-Resources theory according to which personal resources may buffer stress provoked from job demands . The current study investigates the relation between trainee doctors’ perceptions of the hospital educational environment, stress and their SC. SC was treated as an ecological resource which was measured on individual level. Both its’ cognitive (e.g. feelings of safety) and structural (e.g. family, friends and work connections) elements were evaluated. According to our main hypotheses, residents’ positive perceptions of the educational environment are negatively associated with stress and positively with higher SC levels.