Who are you and who do you want to be? Key considerations in developing professional identities in medicine

Charlotte E Rees and Lynn V Monrouxe
Med J Aust 2018; 209 (5): . || doi: 10.5694/mja18.00118
Published online: 3 September 2018

Who we are, our identities are essential. Identities give our lives meaning, guiding behaviour. Professional identities are of utmost importance in medicine. They are the cornerstone of professionalism, providing us with ethical frameworks within which we work.1 For example, having a strong professional identity as a doctor enables you to consider your values and how they relate to those prescribed (eg, professionalism codes of conduct), and to patients’ and colleagues’ values.2 Furthermore, possessing a strong professional identity can foster confidence (both in yourself, and others in you), cultivate collaborative leadership styles and develop wellbeing.3 Conversely, having strong professional identities can lead to negative outcomes — including negative workplace behaviour, poor teamwork, challenges to shared decision making with patients, and hierarchical leadership styles — resulting in patient safety threats.4 For better or worse, professional identities matter: for you, your patients and your colleagues. In this article, we describe what we mean by identities; how different identities play out during interactions; how they are formed, alongside the barriers and threats to development; and the consequences of developing (or not) professional identities. We also discuss how we may support professional identity formation.

  • Charlotte E Rees1
  • Lynn V Monrouxe2

  • 1 Monash Centre for Scholarship in Health Education (MCSHE), Monash University, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2 Chang Gung Medical Education Research Centre (CG-MERC), Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou, Taoyuan City, Taiwan


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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