Which experiences in the hidden curriculum teach students about professionalism?

Acad Med. 2011 Mar;86(3):369-77. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182087d15.


Purpose: To examine the relationship between learner experience in the "hidden curriculum" and student attribution of such experiences to professionalism categories.

Method: Using the output of a thematic analysis of 272 consecutive narratives recorded by 135 students on a medical clerkship from June through November 2007, the authors describe the frequency of these experiences within and across student-designated Association of American Medical Colleges-National Board of Medical Examiners professionalism categories and employ logistic regression to link varieties of experience to specific professionalism categories.

Results: Thematic analysis uncovered two main domains of student experience: medical-clinical interaction and teaching-and-learning experiences. From a student perspective the critical incident stories evoked all professionalism categories. Most frequently checked off categories were caring/compassion/communication (77%) and respect (69%). Logistic regression suggested that student experiences within the teaching-and-learning environment were associated with professionalism categories of excellence, leadership, and knowledge and skills, whereas those involving medical-clinical interactions were associated with respect, responsibility and accountability, altruism, and honor and integrity. Experiences of communicating and working within teams had the broadest association with learning about professionalism.

Conclusions: Student narratives touched on all major professionalism categories as well as illuminating the contexts in which critical experiences emerged. Linked qualitative and quantitative analysis identified those experiences that were associated with learning about particular aspects of professionalism. Experiences of teamwork were especially relevant to student learning about professionalism in action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Clerkship / organization & administration*
  • Empathy
  • Ethics, Medical / education
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Leadership
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Narration
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Professional Competence*