Communities of clinical practice and normalising technologies of self: learning to fit in on the surgical ward

Anthropol Med. 2010 Apr;17(1):59-73. doi: 10.1080/13648470903569388.


This paper reports observational research of Fourth Year medical students in their first year of clinical training doing their surgical attachment. Previously, the authors have argued that medical curricula constitute normalising technologies of self that aim to create a certain kind of doctor. Here, they argue that a key mechanism through which these normalising technologies are exercised in the workplace is Etienne Wenger's communities of practice. In the clinical environment the authors identify communities of clinical practice (CoCP) as groups of health professionals that come together with the specific and common purpose of patient care. Fourth Year medical students join these transient communities as participants who are both peripheral and legitimate. Communities of clinical practice are potent vehicles for student learning. They learn and internalise the normative professional values and behaviours that they witness and experience within the disciplinary block of the medical school and teaching hospital; specifically, the authors suggest, it is through their participation in communities of clinical practice that medical students learn how to 'be one of us'.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • General Surgery / methods
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Models, Educational
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Physician's Role
  • Students, Medical*