Competency is not enough: integrating identity formation into the medical education discourse

Acad Med. 2012 Sep;87(9):1185-90. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182604968.


Despite the widespread implementation of competency-based medical education, there are growing concerns that generally focus on the translation of physician roles into "measurable competencies." By breaking medical training into small, discrete, measurable tasks, it is argued, the medical education community may have emphasized too heavily questions of assessment, thereby missing the underlying meaning and interconnectedness of how physician roles shape future physicians. To address these concerns, the authors argue that an expanded approach be taken that includes a focus on professional identity development. The authors provide a conceptual analysis of the issues and language related to a broader focus on understanding the relationship between the development of competency and the formation of identities during medical training. Including identity alongside competency allows a reframing of approaches to medical education away from an exclusive focus on "doing the work of a physician" toward a broader focus that also includes "being a physician." The authors consider the salient literature on identity that can inform this expanded perspective about medical education and training.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Humans
  • Physician's Role*
  • Social Identification*
  • Sociology, Medical