What Do Medical Students Do for Self-Care? A Student-Centered Approach to Well-Being

Teach Learn Med. 2017 Jul-Sep;29(3):237-246. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2016.1271334. Epub 2017 Feb 16.


Phenomenon: Despite the promotion of medical student health and wellness through recent program and curricular changes, research continues to show that medical education is associated with decreased well-being in medical students. Although many institutions have sought to more effectively assess and improve self-care in medical students, no self-care initiatives have been designed using the explicit perspectives of students themselves.

Approach: Using concept mapping methodology, the research team created a student-generated taxonomy of self-care behaviors taken from a national sample of medical students in response to a brainstorming prompt. The research team examined how students' conceptualizations of self-care may be organized into a framework suitable for use in programming and curricular change in medical education.

Findings: Ten clusters of self-care activities were identified: nourishment, hygiene, intellectual and creative health, physical activity, spiritual care, balance and relaxation, time for loved ones, big picture goals, pleasure and outside activities, and hobbies. Using results of the two-dimensional scaling analysis, students' individual self-care behaviors were organized within two orthogonal dimensions of self-care activities. Insights: This concept map of student-identified self-care activities provides a starting point for better understanding and ultimately improving medical student self-care. Students' brainstormed responses fit within a framework of varying levels of social engagement and physical-psychological health that included a wide range of solitary, social, physical, and mental health behaviors. As students' preferred self-care practices did not often include programmatic activities, medical educators may benefit from consulting this map as they plan new approaches to student self-care and in counseling individual students searching for more effective ways to ease the burdens of medical school.

Keywords: Medical students; health promotion; self-care; wellness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Schools, Medical
  • Self Care*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult