Professionalism is essential in medical education, yet how it is embodied through medical students' lived experiences remains elusive. Little research exists on how students perceive professionalism and the barriers they encounter. This study examines attitudes toward professionalism through students' written reflections.Family medicine clerkship students at Stanford University School of Medicine answered the following prompt: "Log a patient encounter in which you experienced a professionalism challenge or improvement opportunity." We collected and analyzed free-text responses for content and themes using a grounded theory approach.One hundred responses from 106 students generated a total of 168 codes; 13 themes emerged across four domains: challenging patients, interpersonal interactions, self-awareness, and health care team dynamics. The three most frequently occurring themes were interacting with emotional patients, managing expectations in the encounter, and navigating the trainee role.Medical students view professionalism as a balance of forces. While many students conceived of professionalism in relation to patient encounters, they also described how professionalism manifests in inner qualities as well as in health systems. Interpersonal challenges related to communication and agenda-setting are predominant. Systems challenges include not being seen as the "real doctor" and being shaped by team behaviors through the hidden curriculum. Our findings highlight salient professionalism challenges and identity conflicts for medical students and suggest potential educational strategies such as intentional coaching and role-modeling by faculty. Overall, students' reflections broaden our understanding of professional identity formation in medical training.
View details for DOI 10.22454/FamMed.2021.128713
View details for PubMedID 33723818