Jimmy B. Beck, MD, MD, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, Terry Kind, MD, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, Katherine Chretien, MD, Washington DC VA Medical Center, Washington, DC, Craig C. DeWolfe, MD, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC
Background: In 2010, the Carnegie Foundation issued a report emphasizing the importance of the “formation of the physician's professional identity.” While medical student professional identity development is relatively unexplored in the medical literature, results from other fields (art therapy and teaching) suggest positive outcomes of service learning programs on professional identity.
Methods: Students between their 1st and 2nd year of school served as counselors for 1 week at a condition specific camp (epilepsy, heart disease, or diabetes) sponsored by Children’s National Medical Center. Focus groups were held on the last day of camp for a total of 3 separate groups. Sample questions included: How do you think this week will affect your professional goals and how did this week affect you personally? Focus group data were assessed using the phenomenological tradition by two researchers trained in qualitative analysis.
Results: All 9 students agreed to participate. Findings revealed parallels in what the students experienced and what they perceived the campers to have gained, such as leadership and communication skills, and knowledge of chronic disease. They described the experience as motivating and career reinforcing, and it helped them “move beyond the textbook.” They strengthened their professional identity by deepening their commitment to serving patients with empathy, seeing and talking to patients as people and not just diseases, and wanting to help patients’ live healthier lives.
Conclusions: A 1 week service learning experience at a medical specialty camp may influence and strengthen the early formative professional identity of medical students. Our plans include conducting interviews with the students 6 months after their experience to explore the long-term effects of this program.