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Med Educ. 2009 Mar;43(3):254-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2008.03278.x.

Medical students' perceptions of identity in communication skills training: a qualitative study.

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1
Centre for the Study of Professions, Oslo University College, Oslo, Norway. Andre.Vagan@hio.no

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Communication skills training in undergraduate medical education is considered to play an important role in medical students' formation of their professional identity. This qualitative study explores Year 1 students' perceptions of their identities when practising communication skills with real patients.

METHODS:

A total of 23 individual semi-structured interviews and two focus group discussions were conducted with 10 students during their first year of communication skills training. All interviews and discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed for emergent themes relating to identity.

RESULTS:

Students struggled to communicate professionally with patients because of a lack of clinical knowledge and skills. Consequently, students enacted other identities, yet patients perceived them differently, causing conversational ambiguities.

DISCUSSION:

Students' perceptions challenge educational goals, suggesting that there is limited potential for the formation of professional identity through early training. Teacher-doctors must acknowledge how students' low levels of clinical competence and patients' behaviour complicate students' identity formation.

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