Patients’ perspectives on medical students’ professionalism: Blind spots and opportunities

Med Educ. 2022 Jan 30. doi: 10.1111/medu.14735. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Research has acknowledged the value of patients as essential stakeholders in medical education, yet educators have not adequately incorporated patients’ perspectives into medical students’ developing professionalism. Our purpose was to explore patients’ perceptions of professional behaviour in medical students as a first step to considering patients’ potential roles in assessing professionalism.

METHODS: Building on the existing framework of the “disavowed curriculum,” we used a constructivist grounded theory approach to interview and analyze data from 19 patients (11W, 8M) at one urban hospital. Each participant watched 5 video scenarios that depict professionally challenging situations commonly faced by medical students, after which they were asked to put themselves in the position of both the patient and the student depicted in each scenario, and to discuss what they felt would be appropriate or inappropriate behaviours from each perspective.

RESULTS: Patients’ responses replicated all elements of the disavowed curriculum, including principles of professionalism, the student’s affect or internal factors, and potential implications of actions. Their responses reflected avowed, unavowed and disavowed rationales. Participants also identified novel principles, including: hide dissension in the ranks, respect privacy, advocate for yourself, and have trust in the system. Patients conveyed an understanding of the multiple competing factors students must balance (e.g., providing optimal care while maximizing educational opportunities) and appeared to empathize with some of the pressures students face.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings point to significant blind spots in previous research based on faculty and student perspectives of professionalism. Knowing what patients perceive as important will allow educational and assessment efforts to be refined to reflect their values. Our work begins the process of understanding how best to include patients in the assessment of medical learners.

PMID:35098573 | DOI:10.1111/medu.14735

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