Background: Professional competence is important in delivering high quality patient care, and it can be enhanced by reflection and reflective discourse e.g. in mentoring groups. However, students are often reluctant though to engage in this discourse. A group mentoring program involving all preclinical students as well as faculty members and co-mentoring clinical students was initiated at Witten-Herdecke University. This study explores both the attitudes of those students towards such a program and factors that might hinder or enhance how students engage in reflective discourse. Methods: A qualitative design was applied using semi-structured focus group interviews with preclinical students and semi-structured individual interviews with mentors and co-mentors. The interview data were analyzed using thematic content analysis. Results: Students' attitudes towards reflective discourse on professional challenges were diverse. Some students valued the new program and named positive outcomes regarding several features of professional development. Enriching experiences were described. Others expressed aversive attitudes. Three reasons for these were given: unclear goals and benefits, interpersonal problems within the groups hindering development and intrapersonal issues such as insecurity and traditional views of medical education. Participants mentioned several program setup factors that could enhance how students engage in such groups: explaining the program thoroughly, setting expectations and integrating the reflective discourse in a meaningful way into the curriculum, obliging participation without coercion, developing a sense of security, trust and interest in each other within the groups, randomizing group composition and facilitating group moderators as positive peer and faculty role models and as learning group members. Conclusions: A well-designed and empathetic setup of group mentoring programs can help raise openness towards engaging in meaningful reflective discourse. Reflection on and communication of professional challenges can, in turn, improve professional development, which is essential for high quality patient care.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank the WHU medical students, the mentors and co-mentor who participated in this study. We are grateful to the Mahle Foundation for supporting the study, both idealistically and financially. We would also like to thank Anne Wegner for revising the use of English in this manuscript. And, last but not least we would like to thank Patrick Rebacz (Visionom), who helped design the figures.
© 2017 The Author(s).
- Communication, Medical education
- Curriculum development
- Reflective practice
ASJC Scopus subject areas