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A qualitative study of the learning processes in young physicians treating suicidal patients: from insecurity to personal pattern knowledge and self-confidence

Author(s): Høifødt Tordis | Talseth Anne-Grethe | Olstad Reidun

Journal: BMC Medical Education
ISSN 1472-6920

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 21;
Date: 2007;
Original page

Abstract Background Little empirical work has been done in studying learning processes among newly educated physicians in the mental health field. The aim of the study was to shed light on the meaning of newly educated physicians' lived experiences of learning processes related to treating suicidal patients. Methods Thirteen newly educated physicians narrated their learning experiences while treating suicidal patients in their own practice. The interview texts were transcribed and interpreted using a phenomenological-hermeneutical method inspired by Ricoeur's philosophy. Results There was one main theme, four themes and eleven sub themes. The main theme was: Being in a transitional learning process. The themes and sub themes were: Preparing for practice (Getting tools and training skills, Becoming aware of one's own attitudes); Gaining experience from treating patients (Treating and following up patients over time, Storing memories and recognizing similarities and differences in patients); Participating in the professional community (Being an apprentice, Relating clinical stories and receiving feedback, Sharing emotions from clinical experiences, Receiving support from peers); and Developing personal competence (Having unarticulated awareness, Having emotional knowledge, Achieving self-confidence). The informants gave a detailed account of the learning process; from recognising similarities and differences in patients they have treated, to accumulating pattern knowledge, which then contributed to their personal feelings of competence and confidence. They described their personal competence with cognitive and emotional elements consisting of both articulated and less articulated knowledge. The findings are interpreted in relation to different learning theories that focus on both individual factors and the interaction with the learning environment. Conclusion This study provides additional information about learning experiences of young physicians during the critical transition phase from medical school to early professional life. Peers are used for both learning and support and might represent a more powerful resource in the learning process than previously recognized. Emotional experiences do not seem to be adequately focused upon in supervision, which obviously has relevance both for learning and for the well-being of young professionals. The study indicates some areas of the educational system that could profitably be expanded including stimulating more systematically to critical reflection on and in practice, attention to feelings in the reflective process and provision of more performance feedback to young physicians.
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