Finding Meaning in Medicine: Pediatric Residents’ Perspectives on Humanism

Published:December 10, 2021DOI:



      To explore pediatric residents’ perspectives on humanism and how residency impacts humanism formation.


      We conducted a qualitative study with pediatric resident focus groups at Stanford. Transcripts were analyzed by two investigators using grounded theory. Subsequent literature review led us to adapt Cruess et al. 2015′s professional identity formation framework to describe development of a humanism identity in residency. Member check was done to verify themes and the adapted framework.


      Thirty two pediatric residents participated. Five themes emerged: 1) Empathy, compassion, and respect are foundational elements of humanism. 2) Each resident had a unique view of humanism derived from personal values. 3) Residents felt that the terms excellence and resilience (Gold Foundation IECARES model) did not fit with their own definitions. 4) Residents felt that humanism is a central part of their practice and training. 5) The demands, structure, and culture of residency were often in conflict with promoting humanism in residents. Based on residents' perspectives, we modified the professional identity formation and socialization conceptual framework proposed by Cruess et al. 2015 to reflect humanism identity formation during pediatrics residency. The new framework emphasizes the increased power of the healthcare system and unconscious acquisition on humanism formation in residency as compared to medical school.


      Residents believe that humanism is a core part of practicing medicine and should be reinforced during residency training. Cruess' professional identity and socialization framework is a tool for a better understanding of the complexity of humanism development in residency.


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