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Patients as partners in the development of medical students’ professional identity.


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Barr, J (2012) Patients as partners in the development of medical students’ professional identity. Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop understanding
about the processes involved in building a patient-centred professional
identity in the senior medical student years. Becoming a doctor
demands a sophisticated understanding that extends beyond scientific
knowledge. Patient encounters are central to providing opportunities
for medical students to ‘learn their craft’. This process, while starting in
the undergraduate years, continues through to the junior doctor role.
Whether medical students consider patients and ‘learning their craft’ to
be a central combination that is welcomed or expected throughout their
undergraduate training is to be explored in this study. This examination
of students’ development concentrates on discovering the ways in
which partnering with patients in undergraduate learning impacts on
their professional identity formation. The mechanism of a university
patient-centred teaching program provides an ideal basis for enquiry
into students’ learning and development, in the way they become
doctors and their views on how patients are related to this journey.
Background: A rapidly changing health landscape in Australia is
affecting medical students entering the health workforce as junior
doctors. The key areas of higher education reform, health system
reform, community expectations and engagement are all determinants
of the way in which medical students are being required to learn their
craft. Medical education must generate medical professionals who are
capable of responding to these and other changes they will face.
Patient-centredness and partnerships with patients are terms which are
commonly used now in this new health care climate. However in the education of health professionals there remains a void of understanding
about how students actually learn this and assimilate it into their
developing doctor identity. A teaching and learning program, the
Patient Partner Program (P3), attempts to teach a patient-centred
approach. It is of interest for medical educators to determine the
meaning and significance of such a contribution to learning in respect
to students’ growth towards becoming doctors, the construction of
meaning from these learning encounters and future capacity to provide
patient-centred care within the contemporary health system.
Methods: An exploratory interpretive research design was used to
conduct this study. It employed three qualitative data collection
methods: (i) Focus groups (ii) Extended response questionnaire and (iii)
Semi-structured interviews. Data was coded and analysed thematically.
Findings: The findings indicate that the professional identity of
medical students begins to form prior to entry into the MBBS and is
then constructed along traditional lines in the preclinical years. P3
offers a disruption to this development by way of an intersection with
patients with chronic illness which potentially allows meaningful
construction. This point of reflection provides an opportunity to engage
at a higher level in medical identity development.
Conclusion: Throughout the journey of becoming a doctor medical
educators need to equip students with capabilities in negotiating the
field of conflict that is present when learning with and around patients.
The findings discussed in this thesis further stimulate the patientcentred
agenda by understanding the student–patient nexus in medical
education and its potential for building a patient-centred professional

Item Type: Thesis (Research Master)
Keywords: medical education, professional identity, patient partnership, patient-centredness
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Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2012 04:48
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:53
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