Between Two Worlds: A Multi-Institutional Qualitative Analysis of Students’ Reflections on Joining the Medical Profession

University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA.
Journal of General Internal Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.42). 07/2008; 23(7):958-63. DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0508-1
Source: PubMed


Recent changes in healthcare system and training mandates have altered the clinical learning environment. We incorporated reflective writing into Internal Medicine clerkships (IMcs) in multiple institutions so students could consider the impact of clerkship experiences on their personal and professional development. We analyzed student reflections to inform curricula and support learning.
We qualitatively analyzed the reflections of students at 3 US medical schools during IMcs (N = 292) to identify themes, tone, and reflective quality using an iterative approach. Chi-square tests assessed differences between these factors and across institutions.
Students openly described powerful experiences. Major themes focused on 4 categories: personal issues (PI), professional development (PD), relational issues (RI), and medical care (MC). Each major theme was represented at each institution, although with significant variability between institutions in many of the subcategories including student role (PI), development-as-a-physician (PD), professionalism (PD) (p < 0.001). Students used positive tones to describe student role, development-as-a-physician and physician-patient relationship (PD) (p < 0.01-0.001), and negative tones for quality and safety (MC) (p < 0.05). Only 4% of writings coded as professionalism had a positive tone. Students employed a "reporting" voice in writing about clinical problem-solving, healthcare systems, and quality/safety (MC).
Reflection is considered important to professional development. Our analysis suggests that students at 3 institutions reflect on similar experiences. Theme variability across institutions implies curricula should be tailored to local culture. Reflective quality analysis suggests students are better equipped to reflect on certain experiences over others, which may impact learning. Student reflections can function as a mirror for our organizations, offer institutional feedback for support and improvement, and inform curricula for learners and faculty.

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    ABSTRACT: The hidden (informal) curriculum is blamed for its negative effects on students' humanism and professional development. To combat this, educational initiatives employing mentored reflective practice, faculty role-modeling, and feedback have been advocated. Promote reflection on professional development using collaborative, web-based technology. Four-week basic medicine clerkship rotation at an academic institution over a one-year period. Students were asked to contribute two reflective postings to a class web log (blog) during their rotation. They were able to read each other's postings and leave feedback in a comment section. An instructor provided feedback on entries, aimed to stimulate further reflection. Students could choose anonymous names if desired. Ninety-one students wrote 177 posts. One-third of students left feedback comments. The majority of students enjoyed the activity and found the instructor's feedback helpful. Assessment of the posts revealed reflections on experience, heavily concerned with behavior and affect. A minority were not reflective. In some cases, the instructor's feedback stimulated additional reflection. Certain posts provided insight to the hidden curriculum. We have discovered that blogs can promote reflection, uncover elements of the hidden curriculum, and provide opportunities to promote professional development.
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