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Identity change and the human dissection experience over the first year of medical training

By A. Madill and G. Latchford


The aim of this study is to explore identity change in medical students over their first year of medical training, particularly in relation to their experience of human dissection. Each of our four participants completed two repertory grids at the end of term one and, again, towards the end of term three. One grid tapped their identity construction, and the other, their experience of human dissection. Our participants were optimistic about becoming similar to a doctor they admired and, towards the end of term three, began to develop a stable identity as a medical student. Their identity constructs involved three common themes: dedication, competence, and responsibility. However, the data also revealed negative reactions to the demands of training, such as feeling driven and stressed. Three major themes were apparent in their experience of human dissection: involvement, emotional coping, and ability. Our participants’ dedication to their studies was reflected in their appreciation of the need to become involved actively in the process of dissection but some experienced an erosion of their self-confidence and perceived some of their colleagues to have lost much of their enthusiasm for learning. Emotional coping could be an additional challenge within this context and their reaction tended to reflect distancing processes previously identified in the literature. In all, we see a development of a vulnerable sense of professionalism alongside a frustration of losing out potentially on wider aspects of personal development due to the high work demands

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2005
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:1498

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