The Role for Simulation in Professional Identity Formation in Medical Students

Simul Healthc. 2021 Jun 1. doi: 10.1097/SIH.0000000000000583. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Authentic clinical experiences and reflection are critical for medical student professional identity formation (PIF). Individualized learning plans and competency-based education accelerate time to graduation, thus creating more demand for students to gain PIF experiences early in medical education. This pilot study investigated student professional identity experiences related to participation in a clinical simulation during the first week of medical school.

Methods: All first-year medical students at an academic health center participated in a clinically relevant simulation-based orientation to medical school (SOMS). Participants completed evaluation surveys measuring PIF-related experiences during the SOMS.

Results: All participants completed the survey (N = 186). Students agreed that the SOMS helped them feel what it is like to be a doctor (90%) and transition to the role of student-physician (91%). Student comments about the SOMS-reflected PIF-related processes, such as building a sense of a community of practice among their peers in their roles as a healthcare team. Students also valued the opportunity to engage in reflection about their roles as student-physicians.

Conclusions: Simulation experiences can be used as a trigger for self-reflection to assist in medical student professional identity development as early as the first weeks of medical school. Simulation exercises may improve PIF and could further enhance medical student PIF by adding them longitudinally into the curriculum.