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Med Teach. 2017 Mar;39(3):255-261. doi: 10.1080/0142159X.2017.1270437. Epub 2016 Dec 30.

Measuring professional identity formation early in medical school.

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a Division of General Internal Medicine and Clinical Innovation , New York University School of Medicine , New York , NY , USA.
b New York University School of Medicine , New York , NY , USA.
c Monson Consulting and Evaluation , Minneapolis , MN , USA.
d Department of Education , Georgian Court University , Lakewood , NJ , USA.
e Department of Medical Education , University of Illinois College of Medicine , Chicago , IL , USA.



To assess the feasibility and utility of measuring baseline professional identity formation (PIF) in a theory-based professionalism curriculum for early medical students.


All 132 entering students completed the professional identity essay (PIE) and the defining issues test (DIT2). Students received score reports with individualized narrative feedback and wrote a structured reflection after a large-group session in which the PIF construct was reviewed. Analysis of PIEs resulted in assignment of a full or transitional PIF stage (1-5). The DIT2 score reflects the proportion of the time students used universal ethical principles to justify a response to 6 moral dilemma cases. Students' reflections were content analyzed.


PIF scores were distributed across stage 2/3, stage 3, stage 3/4, and stage 4. No student scores were in stages 1, 2, 4/5, or 5. The mean DIT2 score was 53% (range 9.7?76.5%); the correlation between PIF stage and DIT score was ρ =  0.18 (p = 0.03). Students who took an analytic approach to the data and demonstrated both awareness that they are novices and anticipation of continued PIF tended to respond more positively to the feedback.


These PIF scores distributed similarly to novice students in other professions. Developmental-theory based PIF and moral reasoning measures are related. Students reflected on these measures in meaningful ways suggesting utility of measuring PIF scores in medical education.

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