A World of Difference’: a Qualitative Study of Medical Students’ Views on Professionalism and the ‘Good Doctor’

Beatriz Cuesta-Briand, Kirsten Auret, Paula Johnson, Denese Playford
Submitted: April, 2014

This paper presents results from a study exploring 49 medical students in Western Australia views on professionalism, and reports on students’ constructs of the ‘good’ and the ‘professional’ doctor through 13 focus groups. Being competent, a good communicator and a good teacher were the main characteristics of the ‘good’ doctor. Professionalism was strongly associated with the adoption of a professional persona; following a code of practice and professional guidelines, and treating others with respect were also associated with the ‘professional’ doctor. Students felt more connected to the notion of the ‘good’ doctor, and perceived professionalism as an external and imposed construct. When both constructs were seen as acting in opposition, students tended to forgo professionalism in favour of becoming a ‘good’ doctor. Results suggest that the teaching of professionalism should incorporate more formal reflection on the complexities of medical practice, allowing students and educators to openly explore and articulate any perceived tensions between what is formally taught and what is being observed in clinical practice.

  • Medical Teaching