Reflecting on professional identity in undergraduate medical education: implementation of a novel longitudinal course

Perspect Med Educ. 2021 Mar 9. doi: 10.1007/s40037-021-00649-w. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Today's healthcare professionals face numerous challenges. Improving reflection skills has the potential to contribute to the better management of complex patients and healthcare systems, as well as to improve professional practice. However, the question of how reflection skills can inform professional identity development at the undergraduate medical education level remains unanswered.

Approach: The authors developed and implemented a 4-year course that aims to engage students in a reflective process to increase their awareness of their professional identity development. The course is structured around three types of pedagogical activities: workshops, reflections deposited in an electronic portfolio, and individual discussions with mentors.

Evaluation: Sixty-four 1st year students (33%) and 17 mentors (50%) from the 2017-2018 cohort completed evaluation questionnaires. For the 2018-2019 academic year, 73 1st year students (34%) and 27 2nd year students (14%), as well as 20 1st year (59%) and 19 2nd year mentors (57%) replied. Students and mentors considered that the pedagogical activities contributed to the development of students' professional identity through the acquisition of reflection skills, but some elements were perceived as challenging, notably, completing the portfolio, finding a subject to reflect about and the timing of the proposed activities.

Reflection: An important preoccupation when wanting to foster the development of professional identity through the acquisition of reflection skills is the authenticity of students' reflection. We tried to favor authentic reflection, by having a mentee-mentor pair throughout the entire 4‑year course. A rigorous evaluation process helped us identify and promptly correct issues as they surfaced.

Keywords: Longitudinal course; Professional identity; Reflection; Undergraduate medical education.