Balint groups for medical students
Martina A. Torppa
GP, clinical lecturer
Our Student Balint groups
- An experimental course of voluntary Balint groups for 3rd -6th year medical students at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health, Section of General Practice in 2002-04 in collaboration with the Finnish Balint Society
- 15 student Balint group sessions, each 90mins, 9 medical students, experienced Balint group leader, two clinical teachers of general practice as co-leaders in each session, all participants were asked for agreement to collect data and use it for analysis
Data and analysis
- Data were the field notes by the co-leaders from each session
- Qualitative analysis; grounded theory based content and theme analysis of the transcripts
- were the contexts of the cases the students presented?
- triggered the students to narrate the cases?
- were the main themes discussed in the groups?
A Qualitative Analysis of Student Balint Groups in Medical Education:
Contexts and triggers of case presentations and discussion themes
Patient Education and Counselling 2008;72:5-11.
- What was different from traditional GP Balint groups
- How these issues that were processed in student Balint groups touch on professional growth and on future professional identity of the students as doctors.
(Contexts of the) cases
- Confusing experiences in medical education
- Privacy and profession
- As professionals we are for the patients.
- Students got an experience of reflecting on confusing expereriences together with colleagues in a safe environment
- Students explored how to be a professional and a private person at the same time.
Triggers for presenting cases
- Wittnessing injustice
- Value conflict
- Difficult human relationships
- Incurable patient
- Role confusion
- These issues are possible sources of inner conflicts for students also as future doctors – the group discussions offered a structured way to process them.
Main themes in discussions
- Feelings related to patients
- Negative role models
- Co-operation with other medical professionals
- Building professional identity
- Students experienced a professional way to deal with emotions and feeling aroused by patients.
- Negative examples of fellow colleaques helped students to clarify their own professional identity .
- Preparation for team work as future doctors.
- Explicit discussions of professional identity were valued by the students; considered as a rare opportunity in the curriculum.
Student Balint groups may
- be a valuable forum to foster the development of medical students' mature professional identity.
- enhance future doctors' willingness and capability to reflect on 'difficult' issues with colleaques.
The concept of a case needs to be wider than in traditional Balint Groups (where the case is a patient).
A trained Balint group leader is important also in student groups to keep the discussion goal-oriented.