Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Professional Identity Formation, ProfessionaLism, Leadership And Resilience (PILLAR) in Medical Students.pdf (405.75 kB)

Professional Identity Formation, ProfessionaLism, Leadership And Resilience (PILLAR) in medical students: methodology and early results

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Background: The fundamental role of medical education is the transformation of student to doctor, through a process of education and professional identity formation (PIF), which can be informed by several educational, behavioural and emotional factors. PIF has been deemed to be of equal importance to the acquisition of clinical knowledge and skills, and includes constructs such as professionalism, leadership and resilience. We aimed to assess PIF,  ProfessIonaLism, Leadership And Resilience (PILLAR) in the junior years of medical school in the 2020/2021 academic year and illustrate the potential role of quantitative assessment to demonstrate progression in these areas. In this research, we provide the methods and baseline results for the PILLAR study.

Methods: We implemented a compulsory assessment in pre-clinical years of graduate entry and direct entry medicine in the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dublin, Ireland. Validated scales were used to assess students’ PIF, professional behaviours, resilience and leadership. Descriptive and univariable statistical techniques were used to compare student scores between respective years.

Results: 1,311 students (92% response rate) provided their consent for research. For the psychometric scales, there were no evident trends among years on these assessment measures. Results indicated signicant differences in all measures however, these did not correspond to ascending year of seniority.

Conclusion: While PIF is considered difficult to assess, PILLAR may indicate a formal mechanism of quantitative assessment, while also allowing students to track their own progress over time in relation to their peers. The lack of a clear sequential pattern from junior to more senior years may indicate the need for more formal curriculum input into each of these areas.



The original article is available at Published version is available in Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development doi:10.1177/23821205231198921 and RCSI repository

Published Citation

Ryan A, Hickey A, Harkin DW, Boland F, Collins ME, Doyle F. Professional Identity Formation, ProfessionaLism, Leadership And Resilience (PILLAR) in medical students: methodology and early results. Research Square. 2022

Publication Date

12 April 2022

PubMed ID



  • Medical Professionalism
  • School of Population Health
  • Data Science Centre
  • Graduate School of Healthcare Management
  • Health Psychology

Research Area

  • Health Professions Education
  • Surgical Science and Practice
  • Population Health and Health Services
  • Vascular Biology


Research Square


  • Submitted Version (Preprint)