Purpose: To develop a method for teaching professionalism by enabling students and faculty members to share positive examples of professionalism in a comfortable environment that reflects the authentic experiences of physicians. Medical educators struggle with the teaching of professionalism. Professionalism definitions can guide what they teach, but they must also consider how they teach it, and constructs such as explicit role modeling, situated learning, and appreciative inquiry provide appropriate models.
Method: The project consisted of students interviewing faculty members about their experiences with professionalism and then reflecting on and writing about the teachers' stories. In 2004, 62 students interviewed 33 faculty members, and 193 students observed the interviews. Using a project Web site, 36 students wrote 132 narratives based on the faculty's stories, and each student offered his or her reflections on one narrative. The authors analyzed the content of the narratives and reflections via an iterative process of independent coding and discussion to resolve disagreements.
Results: Results showed that the narratives were rich and generally positive; they illustrated a broad range of the principles contained in many definitions of professionalism: humanism, accountability, altruism, and excellence. The students' reflections demonstrated awareness of the same major principles of professionalism that the faculty conveyed. The reflections served to spark new ideas about professionalism, reinforce the values of professionalism, deepen students' relationships with the faculty, and heighten students' commitment to behaving professionally.
Conclusions: Narrative storytelling, as a variant of appreciative inquiry, seems to be effective in deepening students' understanding and appreciation of professionalism.