Mechanisms involved in the formation of professional identity by medical students

Gila Yakov, Arieh Riskin, Anath A. Flugelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite in-depth discussions regarding professional identity of doctors, there is still a gap in our understanding of how this professional identity actually evolves. Objective: To outline some major mechanisms involved in formation of medical students' professional identity. Methods: A qualitative study based on thematic analysis. 296 diary entries, written by eight medical students as part of the three-year course 'Becoming a Physician,' were reviewed. The course, conducted in small groups, gradually exposes students to the clinical field, and emphasizes awareness to marginalized populations, and interpersonal communication skills. Results: Following the social constructivist learning theory, where learners individually and socially construct meaning attributed to their experiences, we identified three major mechanisms based on students' written reflections. These include linking current experiences to past; comparing different types or aspects of knowledge, doctors or medicine; and future perspective taking. Conclusions: This study sheds light on the possible mechanisms used by medical students in forming their professional identity prior to their clinical training. Knowing these mechanisms can help medical educators better understand and support their students in formation of their professional identities. Conducting reflective writing could serve as an effective tool for learners to comprehend the meanings of their experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-438
Number of pages11
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Formation of professional identity
  • medical students
  • reflective writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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