Exploring power dynamics and their impact on intraprofessional learning

Natasja Looman*, Tamara van Woezik, Dieneke van Asselt, Nynke Scherpbier-de Haan, Cornelia Fluit, Jacqueline de Graaf

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
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    Background: During postgraduate training, considerable efforts for intraprofessional education are in place to prepare primary care residents (PC residents) and medical specialty residents (MS residents) for intraprofessional collaboration (intraPC). Power dynamics are inherently present in such hierarchical medical contexts. This affects intraPC (learning). Yet little attention has been paid to factors that impact power dynamics. This study aims to explore power dynamics and their impact on intraPC learning between PC residents and MS residents during hospital placements. Methods: This study expands on previously published ethnographic research investigating opportunities and barriers for intraPC learning among residents in five Dutch hospitals. We analysed transcripts of observations and in-depth interviews using template analysis. A critical theory paradigm was employed. Discourse analysis additionally informed the data. Results: We defined five interrelated themes that describe characteristics of power dynamics in intraPC learning during hospital placements: beliefs; power distribution; interaction style; subjection; and fearless learning. Power dynamics operate both within and between the themes: power distribution between PC residents, MS residents and MS supervisors seemed to be an attribution affected by underlying beliefs about professional norms or about other professions; beliefs influenced the way PC residents, MS residents and MS supervisors interacted; power distribution based on inequity could lead to subjection of PC residents; power distribution based on equity could lead to fearless learning; and open interactions enabled fearless intraPC learning. Conclusions: Power dynamics have an impact on intraPC learning among residents in hospitals. Constructive power dynamics occur when power distribution is based on equity, combined with sincere open interactions, actively inviting each other into discussions and enlisting the support of MS supervisors to foster fearless learning. This can be achieved by creating awareness of implicit beliefs and making them explicit, recognising interaction that encourages intraPC learning and creating policies that support fearless intraPC learning.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)444-455
    Number of pages12
    JournalMedical Education
    Issue number4
    Early online date28-Nov-2021
    Publication statusPublished - Apr-2022

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