Communities of clinical practice: the social organization of clinical learning

Health (London). 2009 Jan;13(1):107-25. doi: 10.1177/1363459308097363.


The social organization of clinical learning is under-theorized in the sociological literature on the social organization of health care. Professional scopes of practice and jurisdictions are formally defined by professional principles and standards and reflected in legislation; however, these are mediated through the day-to-day clinical activities of social groupings of clinical teams. The activities of health service providers typically occur within communities of clinical practice. These are also major sites for clinical curriculum delivery, where clinical students learn not only clinical skills but also how to be health professionals. In this article, we apply Wenger's model of social learning within organizations to curriculum delivery within a health service setting. Here, social participation is the basis of learning. We suggest that it offers a powerful framework for recognizing and explaining paradox and incongruence in clinical teaching and learning, and also for recognizing opportunities, and devising means, to add value to students' learning experiences.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Institutional Practice
  • Learning
  • Models, Educational*
  • Operations Research
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration*
  • Practice Management, Medical
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration
  • Sociology, Medical*