Contradictions and Opportunities: Reconciling Professional Identity Formation and Competency-Based Medical Education

Natasha Khursigara Slattery
Olle ten Cate
Richard L. Cruess
Robert Sternszus
Stanley J. Hamstra
Yvonne Steinert
Soort article
Eye Opener
Competency-based medical education (CBME),
Professional identity formation,
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The widespread adoption of Competency-Based Medical Education (CBME) has resulted in a more explicit focus on learners’ abilities to effectively demonstrate achievement of the competencies required for safe and unsupervised practice. While CBME implementation has yielded many benefits, by focusing explicitly on what learners are doing, curricula may be unintentionally overlooking who learners are becoming (i.e., the formation of their professional identities). Integrating professional identity formation (PIF) into curricula has the potential to positively influence professionalism, well-being, and inclusivity; however, issues related to the definition, assessment, and operationalization of PIF have made it difficult to embed this curricular imperative into CBME. This paper aims to outline a path towards the reconciliation of PIF and CBME to better support the development of physicians that are best suited to meet the needs of society.

To begin to reconcile CBME and PIF, this paper defines three contradictions that must and can be resolved, namely: (1) CBME attends to behavioral outcomes whereas PIF attends to developmental processes; (2) CBME emphasizes standardization whereas PIF emphasizes individualization; (3) CBME organizes assessment around observed competence whereas the assessment of PIF is inherently more holistic. Subsequently, the authors identify curricular opportunities to address these contradictions, such as incorporating process-based outcomes into curricula, recognizing the individualized and contextualized nature of competence, and incorporating guided self-assessment into coaching and mentorship programs. In addition, the authors highlight future research directions related to each contradiction with the goal of reconciling ‘doing’ and ‘being’ in medical education.


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