“Being” a Doctor or “Working as” a Doctor?

About half of all new medical students in most Western countries are now female. However, are there differences in how they perceive their future jobs? Eva Johansson and Katarina Hamberg explored this question by analyzing the essays on the theme “to be a doctor” of Swedish medical students. While, overall, the essays written by men and women had a lot of themes in common, there were some interesting differences.

For example, female medical students seemed to approach the identity of being a doctor in a somewhat different way than male medical students. They more often expressed discomfort at “being” a doctor and constructed it as a job rather than an identity. As one participant put it: “If you say ‘to be’ it has a tendency to extend to much more than a job, to comprise your whole personality. At the same time it reduces your personality to what you achieve at work and nothing else. I think I am so much more than a med student.”

This is an interesting point as the degree to which something is part of one’s identity can have a plethora of consequences and the fact that female medical students struggle to integrate their job identity into their general identity may prove problematic. However, it is equally possible that over time these gender differences disappear.

Please feel free to share your own experiences on this matter in the comments.

4 thoughts on ““Being” a Doctor or “Working as” a Doctor?

  1. Wow, what a coincidence. I just blogged about this!! I disagree that integration of job identity into general identity is problematic. I think doctors are at risk of losing their identity to their jobs. Simply because the amount of time, energy and mental input we put into our work. Being a doctor should be about being a good person who has the knowledge of medicine. Rather than being a person who views everything in life as a doctor. Geez. That sounds like a tongue twister!

    • Good point! Just had a quick read through your blog post about this issue and you raise some really interesting points. Would you be interested in sharing some of these thoughts on a guest post on this blog? We are really interested in sharing different points of views – and as none of us are surgeons or doctors ourselves, it would be great to get the voice of an actual surgeon on this issue.

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