Developing ‘Thinking as a Doctor’: What is the Influence of Other Healthcare Professionals upon the Early Learning of Medical Students?

By Lili Gao and Alan Bleakley.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper reports some findings from a phenomenographic study of a cohort of second year medical students. The overall aim of this study is to explore what medical students early in their education learn from other healthcare professionals such as nurses, social workers, and midwives, and how this kind of interprofessional learning influences the development of ‘thinking as a doctor’. Data were collected by in-depth interviews and analyzed by using a modified form of the phenomenographic analysis and a thematic analysis. The learning that medical students valued in encountering other healthcare professionals involved education in professional attributes and behaviour, team work, interpersonal skills, and clinical skills. The development of ‘thinking as a doctor’ was identified in terms of ‘difference’ - a result of exposure to, and reflection upon, cultural difference across professional groups. Such findings imply that medical students’ development of ‘thinking as a doctor’ offers a professional identity that is constructed as difference between bounded professional groups. Medical educators should be aware of the pervasive influence of the culture of the ‘Other’ as healthcare professional on medical students’ professional association and identity construction. The movement from ‘thinking as a student’ to ‘thinking as a doctor’ can be seen not as a private cognitive event but also as a cultural feature of ‘difference’. Exploratory and explanatory frameworks borrowed from cultural studies could come to illuminate issues in medical education.

Keywords: Thinking as a Doctor, Identity, Interprofessional Learning

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 8, pp.65-74. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 590.438KB).

Lili Gao

PhD student, Institute of Clinical Education, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Devon, UK

Ms. Lili Gao is currently a second year PhD student of clinical education. Under the supervision of Dr Alan Bleakley, she is working on a project looking at the development of ‘thinking as a doctor’ in medical students through multiprofessional team placement. She gained her MA in English language and literature and worked for many years as an English teacher at School of Foreign Languages, Wuhan University, China. The year she spent as a visiting scholar in the USA gave her an enduring interest in intercultural studies and interprofessional learning. She has articles published on Journal of Teaching English in China and Language & Literature Research. Her most recent book chapter is Read, Reflect, Research: Graduate English Reading published by Wuhan University Press, 2006.

Alan Bleakley

Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Devon, UK

Professor Alan Bleakley is Professor of Medical Education at Peninsula Medical School, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, UK, where there is a thriving Division of Medical Education. He is also academic lead for interprofessional learning and medical humanities, and has been head of clinical education research. He is a leading international figure in medical education, with significant publications and contributions to many conferences. He is Associate Editor for Advances in Health Sciences Theory and Practice, and on the editorial board of the Journal of Interprofessional Care. He heads a research team looking at effective team work in operating theatres within a patient safety agenda. He is currently completing a book on new models and practices for medical education in the 21st century. He has a background in clinical applications of psychology and psychotherapy. Alan lives in the far west of the UK, near Land’s End, and is a keen surfer with 45 year’s experience, and a widely published poet.

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