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Med Educ. 2010 Jul;44(7):674-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2010.03710.x.

Medical students' professional identity development in an early nursing attachment.

Author information

1
Department of Primary and Community Care, Centre for Family Medicine, Geriatric Care and Public Health, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. e.helmich@elg.umcn.nl

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

The importance of early clinical experience for medical training is well documented. However, to our knowledge there are no studies that assess the influence of very early nursing attachments on the professional development and identity construction of medical students. Working as an assistant nurse while training to be a doctor may offer valuable learning experiences, but may also present the student with difficulties with respect to identity and identification issues. The aim of the present study was to describe first-year medical students' perceptions of nurses, doctors and their own future roles as doctors before and after a nursing attachment.

METHODS:

A questionnaire containing open questions concerning students' perceptions of nurses, doctors and their own future roles as doctors was administered to all Year 1 medical students (n=347) before and directly after a 4-week nursing attachment in hospitals and nursing homes. We carried out two confirmatory focus group interviews. We analysed the data using qualitative and quantitative content analyses.

RESULTS:

The questionnaire was completed by 316 students (response rate 91%). Before starting the attachment students regarded nurses as empathic, communicative and responsible. After the attachment students reported nurses had more competencies and responsibilities than they had expected. Students' views of doctors were ambivalent. Before and after the attachment, doctors were seen as interested and reliable, but also as arrogant, detached and insensible. However, students maintained positive views of their own future roles as doctors. Students' perceptions were influenced by age, gender and place of attachment.

CONCLUSIONS:

An early nursing attachment engenders more respect for the nursing profession. The ambivalent view of doctors needs to be explored further in relation to students' professional development. It would seem relevant to attune supervision to the age and gender differences revealed in this study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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