Health Care Practitioners ‘Becoming’ Doctors: Changing Roles and Identities

Michelle McLean, Carla Pecoraro

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review


Despite a rich medical professional identity literature, little has been specifically documented about how individuals from different health professions ‘become’ doctors. This chapter explores this ‘becoming’ for health care practitioners (HPs) studying medicine in a five-year undergraduate program. Eleven students (seven females; four males) from seven health professions (pharmacy, physiotherapy, radiography, occupational therapy, nursing, dentistry, orthoptics) across four years of the medical program were interviewed. Two Year 1 students were followed up in their final year (Year 5). Using narrative analysis, the intersection between ‘being’ HPs and ‘becoming’ doctors was explored.

In terms of their different roles and identities as HPs, medical students, and future doctors, several factors influenced their sense of ‘self’ and their ‘becoming’, including their health profession and practice context, how long they had worked as HPs, whether they continued to work as HPs and the alignment between roles and existing and emerging identities. There was also an interplay between their various roles (e.g., HP, medical student, future doctor) and identities (existing and emerging) in this ‘becoming’, such as a newfound awareness of events or occurrences with potential future relevance, through deliberate role and identity boundaries, cognitive switching to future roles, and the construction of self-tailored hybrid, interprofessional identities. For one student, there was role and identity dissonance.

Individual journeys of ‘becoming’ doctors are personal and context-dependent. ‘Being’ HPs generally added value to ‘becoming’ doctors in terms of, for example, patching perceived deficiencies, leading to interprofessional identities, which challenges the traditional view of a uniprofessional model of identity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClinical Education for the Health Professions: Theory and Practice
EditorsDebra Nestel, Gabriel Reedy, Lisa McKeena, Suzanne Gough
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-13-6106-7
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2021


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