Candid insights and overlooked facets: what medical students write about patient-centeredness in diaries on longitudinal patient contacts

Christel Grau Canét-Wittkampf*, Miranda Trippenzee, Debbie Jaarsma, Agnes Diemers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Despite students’ exposure to patient-centered care principles, their dedication to patient-centeredness often experiences a wane throughout their academic journey. The process of learning patient-centeredness is complex and not yet fully understood. Therefore, in our study, we sought to explore what aspects of patient-centeredness students spontaneously document in their diaries during interactions with actual patients. This investigation will help to identify gaps in the current educational practices and better prepare future clinicians to deliver patient-centered healthcare. We analyzed 92 diaries of 28 third-year undergraduate medical students at UMC Utrecht in the Netherlands who participated in an educational intervention, following four patients each as companions over a two-year period early in their clerkships. We conducted thematic analysis, using inductive and deductive coding, within a social-constructionist paradigm. We identified four key themes: communication, the person behind the patient, collaboration and organization in healthcare, and students’ professional development. Within these themes, we observed that students spontaneously documented 9 of 15 dimensions of patient-centeredness as outlined in the model of Scholl : ‘clinician-patient communication’, ‘patient as unique person’, ‘biopsychological perspective’, ‘essential characteristics of the clinician’, ‘clinician-patient relationship’, ‘involvement of family and friends’, ‘patient-information’, ‘emotional support’ and ‘coordination and continuity of care’ (mainly principles of patient-centeredness). Conversely, we noted that students underreported six other dimensions (enablers and activities): ‘access to care’, ‘integration of medical and non-medical care’, ‘teamwork and teambuilding’, ‘patient involvement in care’, ‘patient empowerment’ and ‘physical support’. Throughout their longitudinal journey of following patients as non-medical companions, students spontaneously documented some aspects of patient-centeredness in their diaries. Additionally, students reflected on their own professional development. Our findings suggest that incorporating education on the broadness of the concept of patient-centeredness coupled with enhanced guidance, could potentially enable students to learn about the complete spectrum of patient-centeredness within their medical education.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2363611
JournalMedical Education Online
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • longitudinal integrated clerkship
  • medical education
  • medical students
  • Patient-centeredness
  • qualitative research
  • thematic analysis
  • undergraduate medical education


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