Medical students' affective reactions to workplace experiences: qualitative investigation in a Chinese cultural context

BMC Med Educ. 2020 Nov 4;20(1):404. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02335-7.


Background: Compassion fatigue, unprofessional behavior, and burnout are prompting educators to examine medical students' affective reactions to workplace experiences. Attributes of both students and learning environments are influenced by their socio-cultural backgrounds. To prevent 'educational cultural hegemony', opinion leaders have advocated research in under-represented cultural contexts, of which Asia is a prime example. This study aimed to broaden the discourse of medical education by answering the question: how do students react affectively to workplace experiences in a Chinese cultural context?

Methods: In 2014, the authors recruited five female and seven male Taiwanese clerkship students to make 1-2 audio-diary recordings per week for 12 weeks describing affective experiences, to which they had consciously reacted. The authors analyzed transcripts of these recordings thematically in the original Mandarin and prepared a thick description of their findings, including illustrative extracts. An English-speaking education researcher helped them translate this into English, constantly comparing the interpretation with the original, untranslated data.

Results: (Mis) matches between their visions of future professional life and clerkship experiences influenced participants' affective reactions, thoughts, and behaviors. Participants managed these reactions by drawing on a range of personal and social resources, which influenced the valence, strength, and nature of their reactions. This complex set of interrelationships was influenced by culturally determined values and norms, of which this report provides a thick description.

Conclusion: To avoid educational cultural hegemony, educators need to understand professional behavior in terms of complex interactions between culturally-specific attributes of individual students and learning environments.

Trial registration: The ethics committee of the National Taiwan University (NTU) Hospital gave research ethics approval ( 20130864RINB ).

Keywords: Affective reaction; Cultural hegemony; Oral diary; Workplace experience.