Context: Medical education is about more than acquiring an appropriate level of knowledge and developing relevant skills. To practice medicine students need to develop a professional identity--ways of being and relating in professional contexts.
Objectives: This article conceptualises the processes underlying the formation and maintenance of medical students' professional identity drawing on concepts from social psychology.
Implications: A multi-dimensional model of identity and identity formation, along with the concepts of identity capital and multiple identities, are presented. The implications for educators are discussed.
Conclusions: Identity formation is mainly social and relational in nature. Educators, and the wider medical society, need to utilise and maximise the opportunities that exist in the various relational settings students experience. Education in its broadest sense is about the transformation of the self into new ways of thinking and relating. Helping students form, and successfully integrate their professional selves into their multiple identities, is a fundamental of medical education.