Lynn Monrouxe is a reader in medical education and director of medical education research at Cardiff University. She conducts research on the interaction between students, doctors, and patients
Lynn Monrouxe is a medical educator and director of medical education research at Cardiff University. She has a background in psychology. She conducts research on the interaction between students, doctors, and patients, which mainly focuses on the way patient-centredness practice is taught. She also researches healthcare students’ narratives of “professionalism dilemmas:” situations in which students find themselves witnessing or participating in something they think is unethical or unprofessional. She has pioneered the “audio diary” method, enabling researchers to study audio documentaries as medical student, and trainees go through their training to become doctors
You haven’t always worked in social sciences. What gave you the incentive to change career pathway?
Yes, that’s right—I was a press photographer for 12 years. Then I went to university and became passionate about cognitive psychology. My PhD in cognitive linguistics ultimately fired me up for a second career. This was a life changing decision. All the stresses you read about working in the press are true. I grew up ethically and wanted to do something that was going to make a difference and that was principled. When a job as a researcher to evaluate the new curriculum at Peninsula Medical School became available I applied and never looked back.
Now that you’re fully absorbed into your work in medical education research, where do you find your inspiration?
I think that my inspiration is the answer to the question, “What is medical education all about?” I want to understand what happens to a student who comes straight from school that enables them to become someone responsible for my health and my life. This is a special process and I want to understand what happens to such individuals as they change their identity. Seeing students develop into doctors really helps fuel my inspiration.
Why do you think telling stories can be so effective and important in students’ development?
Narrative is so important. It allows people to make sense of their world and to work out who they are. I think it helps students to embody the discourses of becoming a professional–rather than just acting like one. When you’re in a situation that you witness several times, you forget that you’re adopting these habits yourself because it is part of the culture you’re in. Sometimes we’re not sure which behaviours are appropriate at any given time. But I think that narratives help reflection and enable us to understand ourselves and others.
Do you think that once students have reflected upon their actions changes are easy to implement initially?
Well I think that students come with certain aspects of professionalism—so they’re already equipped, for example, with integrity. To help students wear a “cloak of professionalism” can be helpful in development. But it’s not just about acting the part. We need to help students to embody that role. Students, as doctors of tomorrow, are held accountable for being professional—and they are often aware that they need to adopt this understanding early. Yes, I admit that it is difficult to embody professionalism. It is a personal journey. It can sometimes be easy to identify when students are acting the part—it comes through in the way they talk and in their bodily actions. There are times when this is okay. I think sometimes it’s better for students to act the part than not at all. But over time, a long period of reflection and subsequent development, embodying an identity as a doctor can become quite natural.
Doing a lot of research, have you encountered any bumps along the way? If so, could you tell us a bit more about them?
Without a doubt, one of the biggest problems is trying to get research translated into real practice. Why would anyone want to read a paper written by me, and why would this change their practice? One way I think we can change practice is to involve clinicians in the research process–researching with them, not just about them. And the same goes for students and patients. We should strive for partnership. That’s an ideal.
Can you tell us about the most enjoyable aspect of your career?
There are two things that I like and they are the complete opposite to each other. Firstly, getting together in a group to analyse data and see something come out of the data. Through this process we come up with new knowledge. It is exciting, and for me, it’s one of the biggest buzzes I can get. For example, looking at bedside teaching videos and talking, debating, arguing—it’s all social. Secondly, writing and being first author on a paper. It can sometimes be quite painful and can take a long time, but perversely I quite enjoy this. Trying to get my thoughts dowm in writing and then sending them to colleagues for their input can be challenging, but collaboration always makes for better research. Both of these are creative processes and are quite lengthy, but I find them exciting.
What advice would you give to medical students who want to get involved in medical education?
Getting involved provides great opportunity, but you need to try and find an appropriate role model. Medical education suffers from a lack of funding. This means that research is often done by the passionate few, and squeezed into an already busy working day. Try to learn from the best. We want students who are enthusiastic—find someone who has published in international peer reviewed journals and ask them if you can join their team.Rupali D Shah, final year medical student1, Rhiannon Lampard, second year medical student1, Thomas I Lemon, final year medical student1
Correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Competing interests: None declared.
Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.
Cite this as: Student BMJ 2014;22:g379