Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Betwixt and between student and professional identities: UK medical students during COVID times

Polidano, Kay, Wenning, Brianne, Mallen, Christian D., Dikomitis, Lisa (2024) Betwixt and between student and professional identities: UK medical students during COVID times. SN Social Sciences, 4 (2). Article Number 53. ISSN 2662-9283. (doi:10.1007/s43545-024-00844-6) (KAR id:104922)


The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Spring 2020 brought about unprecedented disruption to medical education in the United Kingdom (UK). Medical students were encouraged to take up paid roles in the National Health Service to help with workforce shortages. This article explores medical students’ views and experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic vis-à-vis their professional identity formation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 medical students from all five undergraduate years in one UK medical school, between April and June 2020. Three themes were generated: (1) disruption to medical education involving suspension of clinical placements, cancellation of assessments and ceremonial markers; (2) decision-making around joining the clinical workforce, decisions which were influenced by students’ sense of professional obligation, perceived personal gains, and health and safety considerations; (3) experiences of working in clinical settings during the pandemic, including reflections about managing risks and challenges, learning on the job and becoming a better doctor. The findings provide evidence that the UK’s first lockdown destabilised many medical students’ expectations tied to their educational and career trajectory, requiring them to improvise to address gaps in learning and professional development. Taking on a paid healthcare role catapulted them into a liminal period, working in a space ‘betwixt and between’ a medical student and healthcare professional. This swift readjustment of roles and responsibilities accelerated their identity formation as ‘future doctors’. Support for medical students around negotiating such dual role is important in present and future public health crises.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s43545-024-00844-6
Uncontrolled keywords: Clinical training, Semi-structured interviews, Professional identity, Qualitative research, COVID-19 pandemic, Medical students, Liminality
Subjects: H Social Sciences
L Education
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Funders: Keele University (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2024 15:01 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2024 12:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.