Introduction: Imposter phenomenon is common among medical trainees and may influence learning and professional development. The authors sought to describe imposter phenomenon among internal medicine residents.
Methods: In 2020, using emailed invites we recruited a convenience sample of 28 internal medicine residents from a teaching hospital in Baltimore, Maryland to participate in an exploratory qualitative study. In one-on-one interviews, informants described experiences of imposter phenomenon during residency training. Using thematic analysis to identify meaningful segments of text, the authors developed a coding framework and iteratively identified and refined themes. Informants completed the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale.
Results: Informants described feelings and thoughts related to imposter phenomenon, the contexts in which they developed and the impact on learning. Imposter phenomenon has profound effects on residents including: powerful and persistent feelings of inadequacy and habitual comparisons with others. Distinct contexts shaping imposter phenomenon included: changing roles with increasing responsibilities; constant scrutiny; and rigid medical hierarchy. Learning was impacted by inappropriate expectations, difficulty processing feedback, and mental energy diverted to impression management.
Discussion: Internal medicine residents routinely experience imposter phenomenon; these feelings distort residents' sense of self confidence and competence and may impact learning. Modifiable aspects of the clinical learning environment exacerbate imposter phenomenon and thus can be acted upon to mitigate imposter phenomenon and promote learning among medical trainees.
Keywords: Imposter phenomenon; Learning environment; Medical education; Medical trainees.
© 2023. The Author(s).