Longitudinal exploration of students' identity formation during the transition from pre-clinical to clinical training using research poetry

A. Atherley*, P. Teunissen, I. Hegazi, W.Y. Hu, D. Dolmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


BackgroundTransitions are critical periods that can lead to growth and, or, distress. Transitions are a sociocultural process, yet most approaches to transitions in practice and research do not explore the social or developmental aspects of entering a new training phase. Wenger reminds us that identity development is crucial when newcomers navigate change. In this paper, we use Wenger's modes of identification: engagement, imagination and alignment to explore students' identity development (as a student and professional) during the transition from pre-clinical to clinical training. MethodsWe enrolled nine 2nd-year medical students who generated 61 entries comprising audio diary (or typed) reflections over 9 months (starting 3 months before clinical clerkships began) and interviewed them twice. We used research poems (transcripts reframed as poetry) to help construct a meaningful, emotive elicitation of our longitudinal data and analysed data using sensitising concepts from Wenger's modes of identification. ResultsStudents described their transition as a journey filled with positive and negative emotions and uncertainty about their current and future careers. Students navigated the transition using three mechanisms: (1) becoming more engaged through taking charge, (2) shaping their image of self through engagement and finding role models and (3) learning to flexibly adapt to clerkship norms by managing expectations and adopting a journey mindset. ConclusionsWe successfully narrated students' identity formation during their transition to clinical training. We learned that students became more engaged over time by learning to take charge. They shaped their image of self by engaging in team activities and reflecting on role models. They learnt to adapt flexibly to clerkship norms by managing expectations and adopting a journey mindset. We suggest that institutions provide a safe opportunity for medical students to reflect, allowing students' transition periods to be lived, reflected on and supported.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalMedical Education
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Dec 2022



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