Seminar Details

Degrees of certainty: revisiting the concept of uncertainty in undergraduate medical education
Monday 6th December 2010
1 (12.45 for sandwiches) - 2pm
Seminar Room 1, PCPH, Upper 3rd Floor, Royal Free
Speaker Dr Caragh Brosnan, Research Fellow, Centre for Biomedicine & Society, King's College London
Details In 1957, sociologist Renée Fox famously concluded from her study of medical education that one of the key experiences of medical school was ‘training for uncertainty’: medical students had to learn to accept that they could never master the vast body of medical knowledge, the boundaries of which are constantly shifting. Nearly thirty years later, another sociologist, Paul Atkinson, argued that in fact medical students were more often ‘training for certainty’: medical education typically minimises doubt and reduces complexity to simplicity. In this paper I revisit the debate, drawing on findings from my own qualitative study of students’ experiences at two UK medical schools, one with a relatively traditional curriculum and one with an integrated, problem-based curriculum. This study identified a form of uncertainty which neither Fox nor Atkinson discuss: students were uncertain as to whether they were gaining the right type of medical knowledge and skills, particularly in co mparison to their peers at other medical schools. Furthermore, degrees of uncertainty varied between the schools and between year levels. This suggests that in contemporary British medical education, (un)certainty has taken on a relational dimension. I explore the implications of these findings for both the practical delivery of undergraduate medical education and for our theoretical understanding of how medical education works.
Relevant link

Page last modified on 05 nov 10 17:58 by Pauline D Conroy