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What Students Learn About Professionalism From Faculty Stories: An “Appreciative Inquiry” Approach

Quaintance, Jennifer L. PhD; Arnold, Louise PhD; Thompson, George S. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181c42acd
Professionalism

Purpose: To develop a method for teaching professionalism by enabling students and faculty members to share positive examples of professionalism in a comfortable environment that reflects the authentic experiences of physicians. Medical educators struggle with the teaching of professionalism. Professionalism definitions can guide what they teach, but they must also consider how they teach it, and constructs such as explicit role modeling, situated learning, and appreciative inquiry provide appropriate models.

Method: The project consisted of students interviewing faculty members about their experiences with professionalism and then reflecting on and writing about the teachers' stories. In 2004, 62 students interviewed 33 faculty members, and 193 students observed the interviews. Using a project Web site, 36 students wrote 132 narratives based on the faculty's stories, and each student offered his or her reflections on one narrative. The authors analyzed the content of the narratives and reflections via an iterative process of independent coding and discussion to resolve disagreements.

Results: Results showed that the narratives were rich and generally positive; they illustrated a broad range of the principles contained in many definitions of professionalism: humanism, accountability, altruism, and excellence. The students' reflections demonstrated awareness of the same major principles of professionalism that the faculty conveyed. The reflections served to spark new ideas about professionalism, reinforce the values of professionalism, deepen students' relationships with the faculty, and heighten students' commitment to behaving professionally.

Conclusions: Narrative storytelling, as a variant of appreciative inquiry, seems to be effective in deepening students' understanding and appreciation of professionalism.

Dr. Quaintance is assistant professor, Office of Medical Education and Research, University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, Missouri.

Dr. Arnold is professor and associate dean of medical education, University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, Missouri.

Dr. Thompson is associate professor, Office of Medical Education and Research, University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, Missouri.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Quaintance, University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine, 2411 Holmes Street, Kansas City, MO 64108; telephone: (816) 235-1958; e-mail: quaintancej@umkc.edu.

© 2010 Association of American Medical Colleges