Bridging the cultural divide? Exploring UK school pupils’ perceptions of medicine

Kirsty Alexander (Corresponding Author), Jennifer Cleland, Sandra Nicholson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Context
Literature published around a decade ago demonstrated that UK individuals from non‐traditional groups may not consider, or aspire to, medicine because of sociocultural barriers and instead may perceive medicine as ‘not for the likes of me’. Since this time, the UK higher education landscape has undergone significant change, with an increased emphasis on student choice and widening access (WA) initiatives. Consequently, the present study looks anew at the perceptions of medicine held by school pupils from non‐traditional backgrounds to assess whether sociocultural factors remain a major barrier to medicine.

Methods
Focus groups were conducted with 71 high‐achieving school pupils in their penultimate or final years (aged 16–18 years). Participants attended UK state‐funded schools engaged with medical school WA initiatives. Transcripts were analysed thematically using a data‐driven approach. Themes were then interpreted through the conceptual lens of the ‘reflexive habitus’, an adapted version of Bourdieu's classic concept.

Results
Participants did not perceive that sociocultural differences would deter them from aspiring to, or pursuing, the career of their choice. Some participants identified their ‘different’ background as a strength to bring to medicine. They reported that intrinsic motivators (personal interest and fulfilment) were most important in their own career choices. When asked what they believed might have motivated current medical students for the career, participants debated the role of extrinsic motivators (high status and income) versus intrinsic ones. ‘Hot knowledge’ (social contacts) from within medicine helped some participants reconcile any clash in perceived values and better imagine themselves in the profession.

Conclusions
These non‐traditional school pupils from schools engaged with WA initiatives appear to have embraced the belief that medicine is for anyone with the appropriate desire and ability, regardless of background. Furthermore, some pupils reported that some aspects of their ‘difference’ (diversity) could help enrich the workforce and patient care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-583
Number of pages13
JournalMedical Education
Volume53
Issue number6
Early online date14 Feb 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

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pupil
medicine
school
career
sociocultural factors
social relations
patient care
medical student
Group
profession
income
ability
Values
education
student

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

Cite this

Bridging the cultural divide? Exploring UK school pupils’ perceptions of medicine. / Alexander, Kirsty (Corresponding Author); Cleland, Jennifer; Nicholson, Sandra.

In: Medical Education, Vol. 53, No. 6, 06.2019, p. 571-583.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Alexander, Kirsty ; Cleland, Jennifer ; Nicholson, Sandra. / Bridging the cultural divide? Exploring UK school pupils’ perceptions of medicine. In: Medical Education. 2019 ; Vol. 53, No. 6. pp. 571-583.
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title = "Bridging the cultural divide? Exploring UK school pupils’ perceptions of medicine",
abstract = "ContextLiterature published around a decade ago demonstrated that UK individuals from non‐traditional groups may not consider, or aspire to, medicine because of sociocultural barriers and instead may perceive medicine as ‘not for the likes of me’. Since this time, the UK higher education landscape has undergone significant change, with an increased emphasis on student choice and widening access (WA) initiatives. Consequently, the present study looks anew at the perceptions of medicine held by school pupils from non‐traditional backgrounds to assess whether sociocultural factors remain a major barrier to medicine.MethodsFocus groups were conducted with 71 high‐achieving school pupils in their penultimate or final years (aged 16–18 years). Participants attended UK state‐funded schools engaged with medical school WA initiatives. Transcripts were analysed thematically using a data‐driven approach. Themes were then interpreted through the conceptual lens of the ‘reflexive habitus’, an adapted version of Bourdieu's classic concept.ResultsParticipants did not perceive that sociocultural differences would deter them from aspiring to, or pursuing, the career of their choice. Some participants identified their ‘different’ background as a strength to bring to medicine. They reported that intrinsic motivators (personal interest and fulfilment) were most important in their own career choices. When asked what they believed might have motivated current medical students for the career, participants debated the role of extrinsic motivators (high status and income) versus intrinsic ones. ‘Hot knowledge’ (social contacts) from within medicine helped some participants reconcile any clash in perceived values and better imagine themselves in the profession.ConclusionsThese non‐traditional school pupils from schools engaged with WA initiatives appear to have embraced the belief that medicine is for anyone with the appropriate desire and ability, regardless of background. Furthermore, some pupils reported that some aspects of their ‘difference’ (diversity) could help enrich the workforce and patient care.",
author = "Kirsty Alexander and Jennifer Cleland and Sandra Nicholson",
note = "Acknowledgements We would like to thank the study participants for sharing their experiences, the teachers who assisted with the organisation of the focus groups, and the medical school staff who facilitated contact with the high schools, particularly Sally Curtis (Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton). We would also like to thank our reviewers at Medical Education for their insightful and constructive feedback. Funding We thank the College of Life Sciences and Medicine at the University of Aberdeen for funding KA's programme of doctoral research.",
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N2 - ContextLiterature published around a decade ago demonstrated that UK individuals from non‐traditional groups may not consider, or aspire to, medicine because of sociocultural barriers and instead may perceive medicine as ‘not for the likes of me’. Since this time, the UK higher education landscape has undergone significant change, with an increased emphasis on student choice and widening access (WA) initiatives. Consequently, the present study looks anew at the perceptions of medicine held by school pupils from non‐traditional backgrounds to assess whether sociocultural factors remain a major barrier to medicine.MethodsFocus groups were conducted with 71 high‐achieving school pupils in their penultimate or final years (aged 16–18 years). Participants attended UK state‐funded schools engaged with medical school WA initiatives. Transcripts were analysed thematically using a data‐driven approach. Themes were then interpreted through the conceptual lens of the ‘reflexive habitus’, an adapted version of Bourdieu's classic concept.ResultsParticipants did not perceive that sociocultural differences would deter them from aspiring to, or pursuing, the career of their choice. Some participants identified their ‘different’ background as a strength to bring to medicine. They reported that intrinsic motivators (personal interest and fulfilment) were most important in their own career choices. When asked what they believed might have motivated current medical students for the career, participants debated the role of extrinsic motivators (high status and income) versus intrinsic ones. ‘Hot knowledge’ (social contacts) from within medicine helped some participants reconcile any clash in perceived values and better imagine themselves in the profession.ConclusionsThese non‐traditional school pupils from schools engaged with WA initiatives appear to have embraced the belief that medicine is for anyone with the appropriate desire and ability, regardless of background. Furthermore, some pupils reported that some aspects of their ‘difference’ (diversity) could help enrich the workforce and patient care.

AB - ContextLiterature published around a decade ago demonstrated that UK individuals from non‐traditional groups may not consider, or aspire to, medicine because of sociocultural barriers and instead may perceive medicine as ‘not for the likes of me’. Since this time, the UK higher education landscape has undergone significant change, with an increased emphasis on student choice and widening access (WA) initiatives. Consequently, the present study looks anew at the perceptions of medicine held by school pupils from non‐traditional backgrounds to assess whether sociocultural factors remain a major barrier to medicine.MethodsFocus groups were conducted with 71 high‐achieving school pupils in their penultimate or final years (aged 16–18 years). Participants attended UK state‐funded schools engaged with medical school WA initiatives. Transcripts were analysed thematically using a data‐driven approach. Themes were then interpreted through the conceptual lens of the ‘reflexive habitus’, an adapted version of Bourdieu's classic concept.ResultsParticipants did not perceive that sociocultural differences would deter them from aspiring to, or pursuing, the career of their choice. Some participants identified their ‘different’ background as a strength to bring to medicine. They reported that intrinsic motivators (personal interest and fulfilment) were most important in their own career choices. When asked what they believed might have motivated current medical students for the career, participants debated the role of extrinsic motivators (high status and income) versus intrinsic ones. ‘Hot knowledge’ (social contacts) from within medicine helped some participants reconcile any clash in perceived values and better imagine themselves in the profession.ConclusionsThese non‐traditional school pupils from schools engaged with WA initiatives appear to have embraced the belief that medicine is for anyone with the appropriate desire and ability, regardless of background. Furthermore, some pupils reported that some aspects of their ‘difference’ (diversity) could help enrich the workforce and patient care.

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