How Do Junior Medical Students Learn about the Doctor Patient Relationship?

Hamish Wilson, Stuart Chambers


Junior medical students have the capacity to engage well with patients at an early stage in their training. With careful coaching, students can also write moving and accurate accounts of their significant learning experiences. In this article, we introduce an innovative learning programme at Otago University in New Zealand, and present carefully chosen extracts from student essays. These extracts illustrate students’ early exposure to, and challenges in, the student-patient relationship, a precursor to their own professional relationships. Reflective writing helps students internalize foundational interpersonal concepts such as meaningful engagement, self-awareness, the role of other health professionals, and the need for self-care. This early orientation towards whole person care may be helpful grounding for future clinical practice.


Medical students; doctor patient relationship; experiential learning; reflective practice; whole person care

Full Text:



Perez D, Rudland J, Wilson H. The revised Early Learning in Medicine curriculum at the University of Otago – focusing on students, patients, and the community. NZ Med J. 2009(122):1292.

Charon R. Narrative medicine: A model for empathy, reflection, profession, and trust. JAMA. 2001;286(15):1897–902.

Flexner A. Medical education in the United States and Canada: a report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching New York: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; 1910.

Yardley S, Brosnan C, Richardson J. The consequences of authentic early experience for medical students: creation of mētis. Med Educ. 2013;47(1):109-19.

Dornan T, Littlewood S, Margolis SA, Scherpbier A, Spencer J, Ypinazar V. How can experience in clinical and community settings contribute to early medical education? A BEME systematic review. Med Teach. 2006;28(1):3-18.

Scavenius M, Schmidt S, Klazinga N. Genesis of the professional-patient relationship in early practical experience: qualitative and quantitative study. Med Educ. 2006;40(10):1037-44.

Yardley S, Littlewood S, Margolis SA, Scherpbier A, Spencer J, Ypinazar V, et al. What has changed in the evidence for early experience? Update of a BEME systematic review. Med Teach. 2010;32(9):740-6.

Aukes LC, Geertsma J, Cohen-Schotanus J, Zwierstra RP, Slaets JP. The effect of enhanced experiential learning on the personal reflection of undergraduate medical students. Med Educ online. 2008;13(15).

Kember D, McKay J, Sinclair K, Wong F. A four‐category scheme for coding and assessing the level of reflection in written work. Assess Eval Higher Educ. 2008;33(4):369-79.

Christakis DA, Feudtner C. Temporary matters: the ethical consequences of transient social relationships in medical training. JAMA. 1997;278(9):739-43.

Salovey P, Mayer JD. Emotional intelligence. Imagination Cognition Personality. 1990;9:185-211.

Wagner PJ, Mosley GC, Grant MM, Gore JR, Owens CL. Physicians' emotional intelligence and patient satisfaction. Fam Med. 2002;34(10):750-4.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c)

Published by McGill Library.

ISSN: 2291-918X, © McGill University Library