The challenge of authenticity for medical students


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Abstract

SUMMARYBackground:The development of a professional identity occurs during medical school. Formal study of students' reflections on this process may provide insight into how to better support them.Methods:A qualitative data analysis of 56 student essays was undertaken.Results:Students' early interactions with patients seem to be influential in their process of identity development. Students were preoccupied with creating or preserving a professional persona in front of patients. They responded to this perceived challenge in three ways: some were concerned with controlling the experience and expression of emotion, others felt that they failed to be authentic, and the third group focused on the patient's experience of the interaction and agonised over what the patients might want.Discussion:This article adds to the literature by highlighting the struggles medical students encounter trying to behave and feel the way they think they ought. Students may be less troubled and participate more naturally in empathic communication if they learn to access authentic emotions in their interactions with patients. This article discusses strategies for medical faculties and clinical tutors to support and encourage them to do so.Students' early interactions with patients seem to be influential in their process of identity development

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