Intersecting identities in healthcare education
: Exploring the influence of gendered environments on healthcare students’ workplace learning, retention and success

  • Arun Verma

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Equality and diversity legislation across the UK andAustralia has stimulated the health profession sector to make workplaceequality and diversity policies transparent to service users (Wadham et al.2010; RCN 2016; GMC 2016; WGEA 2012). However, research literature hasidentified inequalities within the healthcare workplace as reported by healthprofessions students. Specifically, research has identified issues concerningidentities (gender, age, sexuality etc.) adversely interplaying with students’workplace learning experiences (Rees & Monrouxe 2011; Illing et al. 2013;Monrouxe, Rees, et al. 2014). Such negative learning experiences (i.e.discrimination, abuse) have been found to affect students’ retention andsuccess (Northall et al. 2016). Despite research shedding light on theseissues, studies have typically explored individual identities and demographicsand neglected how students’ intersecting identities shape their learningexperiences, retention and success. Furthermore, research has only offeredrecommendations for enhancing retention and success of students, rather thanexploring the issues affecting retention and success in health professionseducation. This thesis explicitly explores what and how multiple intersectingpersonal and professional identities shape healthcare students’ learning,retention and success in the context of gendered environments and professions(i.e. male- and female-dominated contexts). 

Underpinned by social constructionist, narrative andfeminist methodologies (Kitzinger 1995; Hunting 2014), I conducted a largesecondary analysis on 2255 workplace learning experiences from across the UK andAustralia as well as multiple health professions. To follow on from thesecondary analysis, I led a multi-site longitudinal audio diary study acrosstwo sites in the UK, to explore health professional students’ workplacelearning experiences in the context of male- and female-dominated environments.Multiple cross-sectional and longitudinal qualitative approaches were employedto explore the data, including thematic, narrative, positioning, and case-studyanalytic methods.

 Novel findings from my thesis highlight how participantsnarrated their intersecting personal and professional identities within male-and female-dominated contexts. I found how recurrent tensions and powerimbalances between intersecting identities, learning experiences and environmentsacross time led to an adverse impact on healthcare participants’ thoughts andreflections about their learning, retention and success in the healthprofessions. Sensitising the participants to tensions concerning how theynegotiate their intersecting personal and professional identities are valuablefor understanding and influencing their retention and success. Furthermore,findings from my thesis provide critical recommendations to enhancinghealthcare students’ workplace learning, retention and success in the healthprofessions, through incorporating intersectionality into healthcare educationcurricula. The recommendations made in this thesis contribute to helpingunderstand and support a diversifying healthcare workforce and shed light onpotential issues around healthcare workforce shortages, which can be addressedthrough enhancing health professions’ educational policies and practice.

Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsHigher Education Academy
SupervisorSusie Schofield (Supervisor), Charlotte Rees (Supervisor), Rola Ajjawi (Supervisor) & Lynn Monrouxe (Supervisor)


  • Gender
  • Equality
  • Intersectionality
  • Medical Education
  • Healthcare Education
  • Qualitative methods
  • Identity
  • Positioning
  • Psychology
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Retention
  • Success
  • Higher Education
  • Professional Education
  • Professionalism
  • Feminist
  • Feminism

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