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 and Australia has stimulated the health profession sector to make workplace equality and diversity policies transparent to service users (Wadham et al.2010; RCN 2016; GMC 2016; WGEA 2012). However, research literature has identified inequalities within the healthcare workplace as reported by health professions students. Specifically, research has identified issues concerning identities (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 and success (Northall et al. 2016). Despite research shedding light on these issues, studies have typically explored individual identities and demographics and neglected how students’ intersecting identities shape their learning experiences, retention and success. Furthermore, research has only offered recommendations for enhancing retention and success of students, rather than exploring the issues affecting retention and success in health professions education. This thesis explicitly explores what and how multiple intersecting personal 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 and feminist methodologies (Kitzinger 1995; Hunting 2014), I conducted a large secondary analysis on 2255 workplace learning experiences from across the UK and Australia as well as multiple health professions. To follow on from the secondary analysis, I led a multi-site longitudinal audio diary study across two sites in the UK, to explore health professional students’ workplace learning experiences in the context of male- and female-dominated environments. Multiple cross-sectional and longitudinal qualitative approaches were employed to explore the data, including thematic, narrative, positioning, and case-study analytic methods.

Novel findings from my thesis highlight how participants narrated their intersecting personal and professional identities within male-and female-dominated contexts. I found how recurrent tensions and power imbalances between intersecting identities, learning experiences and environments across time led to an adverse impact on healthcare participants’ thoughts and reflections about their learning, retention and success in the health professions. Sensitising the participants to tensions concerning how they negotiate their intersecting personal and professional identities are valuable for understanding and influencing their retention and success. Furthermore, findings from my thesis provide critical recommendations to enhancing healthcare students’ workplace learning, retention and success in the health professions, through incorporating intersectionality into healthcare education curricula. The recommendations made in this thesis contribute to helping understand and support a diversifying healthcare workforce and shed light on potential issues around healthcare workforce shortages, which can be addressed through 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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