The transition of a medical student or a nursing student into a health care practitioner requires many changes. Among these is the development of an appropriate professional identity, which assists in the establishment of a sound base for professional practice and therefore should be a focus for health professions educators. There is evidence, however, that medical education and nursing education face challenges in guiding students’ development of appropriate professional identities. In medicine, there is concern that medical education may contribute to the development of professional identities that alienate patients rather than identities that are patient centered. The nursing profession struggles with poor retention rates in the workforce, which have been attributed in part to discrepancies between the professional identities that students develop during nursing school and the realities of professional practice.
In this Perspective, the authors explore the importance of and the pedagogical strategies used to facilitate professional identity formation for medical and nursing students. They argue that medical and nursing educators aim to instill in their students strong occupational identities which may perpetuate hierarchical disciplinary boundaries. They suggest that health professions educators should move beyond current disciplinary silos and create interprofessional education opportunities for medical students and nursing students to learn together to facilitate the development of the collaborative interprofessional identities necessary for the delivery of high-quality, patient-centered health care.