Purpose: Medical educators have only limited understanding of how integrating humanities-based components into standard curricula contributes to the medical students' professionalism. This study qualitatively analyzed how students used a creative-project assignment during their third-year internal medicine clerkships to explore various aspects of their professional development.
Method: A total of 277 students from three consecutive classes (1999-2002) at the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine each completed a creative project reflecting on a particularly problematic or meaningful illness-related incident. Process and content analyses of the 221 projects submitted for analysis were performed.
Results: Students' projects employed a wide range of formats, tones, and styles to examine the process of socialization into medicine. Within this framework, their work tended to explore issues such as the proper relationship of medical students to patients, coming to terms with death and dying, understanding the patient's experience of illness, and coping with professional and personal stress.
Conclusion: A creative-projects course component can be a valuable adjunct to traditional clerkship activities in helping students to reflect on the process of becoming a physician.