Purpose Recently, many have argued that learning to reflect on one's experiences is a critical component of professional identity formation and of professionalism. However, little empirical evidence exists to support this claim. This study explored the association between reflective ability and professionalism lapses among medical students. Method The authors conducted a retrospective case-control study of all students who matriculated at Indiana University School of Medicine from 2001 to 2009. The case group (n = 70) included those students who had been cited for a professionalism lapse during medical school; the students in the control group (n = 230) were randomly selected from the students who had not been cited for a professionalism lapse. Students' professionalism journal entries were scored using a validated rubric to assess reflective ability. Mean reflection scores were compared across groups using t tests, and logistic regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between reflective ability and professionalism lapses. Results Reflection scores for students in the case group (2.46 ± 1.05) were significantly lower than those for students in the control group (2.82 ± 0.83) (P =.01). A lower reflection score was associated with an increased likelihood that the student had been cited for a professionalism lapse (odds ratio = 1.56; P <.01). Conclusions This study revealed a significant relationship between reflective ability and professionalism, although further study is needed to draw any conclusions regarding causation. These findings provide quantitative evidence to support current anecdotal claims about the relationship between reflection and professionalism.
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