Family physicians' professional identity formation: a study protocol to explore impression management processes in institutional academic contexts.
BACKGROUND: Despite significant differences in terms of medical training and health care context, the phenomenon of medical students' declining interest in family medicine has been well documented in North America and in many other developed countries as well. As part of a research program on family physicians' professional identity formation initiated in 2007, the purpose of the present investigation is to examine in-depth how family physicians construct their professional image in academic contexts; in other words, this study will allow us to identify and understand the processes whereby family physicians with an academic appointment seek to control the ideas others form about them as a professional group, i.e. impression management.
METHODS/DESIGN: The methodology consists of a multiple case study embedded in the perspective of institutional theory. Four international cases from Canada, France, Ireland and Spain will be conducted; the "case" is the medical school. Four levels of analysis will be considered: individual family physicians, interpersonal relationships, family physician professional group, and organization (medical school). Individual interviews and focus groups with academic family physicians will constitute the main technique for data generation, which will be complemented with a variety of documentary sources. Discourse techniques, more particularly rhetorical analysis, will be used to analyze the data gathered. Within- and cross-case analysis will then be performed.
DISCUSSION: This empirical study is strongly grounded in theory and will contribute to the scant body of literature on family physicians' professional identity formation processes in medical schools. Findings will potentially have important implications for the practice of family medicine, medical education and health and educational policies.