Exploring the tensions of being and becoming a medical educator

Ahsan Sethi (Lead / Corresponding author), Rola Ajjawi, Sean McAleer, Susie Schofield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
249 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Previous studies have identified tensions medical faculty encounter in their roles but not specifically those with a qualification in medical education. It is likely that those with postgraduate qualifications may face additional tensions (i.e., internal or external conflicts or concerns) from differentiation by others, greater responsibilities and translational work against the status quo. This study explores the complex and multi-faceted tensions of educators with qualifications in medical education at various stages in their career.

Methods: The data described were collected in 2013-14 as part of a larger, three-phase mixed-methods research study employing a constructivist grounded theory analytic approach to understand identity formation among medical educators. The over-arching theoretical framework for the study was Communities of Practice. Thirty-six educators who had undertaken or were undertaking a postgraduate qualification in medical education took part in semi-structured interviews.

Results: Participants expressed multiple tensions associated with both becoming and being a healthcare educator. Educational roles had to be juggled with clinical work, challenging their work-life balance. Medical education was regarded as having lower prestige, and therefore pay, than other healthcare career tracks. Medical education is a vast speciality, making it difficult as a generalist to keep up-to-date in all its areas. Interestingly, the graduates with extensive experience in education reported no fears, rather asserting that the qualification gave them job variety.

Conclusion: This is the first detailed study exploring the tensions of educators with postgraduate qualifications in medical education. It complements and extends the findings of the previous studies by identifying tensions common as well as specific to active students and graduates. These tensions may lead to detachment, cynicism and a weak sense of identity among healthcare educators. Postgraduate programmes in medical education can help their students identify these tensions in becoming and develop coping strategies. Separate career routes, specific job descriptions and academic workload models for medical educators are recommended to further the professionalisation of medical education. (Tensions, Fears, Healthcare Educators, Medical Education, Postgraduate Programmes, Identity, Career Choice, Faculty Development, Communities of Practice).

Original languageEnglish
Article number62
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2017


  • Journal article
  • Tensions
  • Fears
  • Healthcare educators
  • Medical education
  • Postgraduate programmes
  • Identity
  • Career choice
  • Faculty development
  • Communities of practice


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