PURPOSE: To explore how the construct of critical consciousness has been conceptualized within the medical education literature and identify the main elements of critical consciousness in medical education so as to inform educational strategies to foster socially conscious physicians.
METHOD: In March 2019, the authors conducted a literature search of four databases and Google Scholar, seeking articles discussing critical consciousness in medical education published any time after 1970. Three of the authors screened articles for eligibility. Two transcribed data using a data extraction form and identified preliminary emerging themes, which were then discussed by the whole research team to ensure agreement.
RESULTS: Of the initial 317 articles identified, 20 met study inclusion criteria. The publication of academic articles around critical consciousness in medical education has expanded substantially since 2017. Critical consciousness has been conceptualized in the medical education literature through four overlapping themes: (1) social awareness, (2) cultural awareness, (3) political awareness, and (4) awareness of educational dynamics.
CONCLUSIONS: Critical consciousness has been conceptualized in medical education as an intellectual construct to foster a reflexive awareness of professional power in health care, to unearth the values and biases legitimizing medicine as currently practiced, and to foster transformation and social accountability. Scholars highlighted its potential to improve socio-cultural responsibility and to foster compassion in doctors. Adopting a critical pedagogy approach in medical education can help uphold its social accountability through an intrinsic orientation to action, but any enterprise working towards embedding critical pedagogy within curricula must acknowledge and challenge the current structure and culture of medical education itself.
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Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis › Doctor of PhilosophyFile