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11-05-2020 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2020 Open Access

Perspectives on Medical Education 3/2020

The sensemaking narratives of scientists working in health professions education scholarship units: The Canadian experience

Perspectives on Medical Education > Uitgave 3/2020
Brittany Etmanski, Stanley J. Hamstra, Lara Varpio
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s40037-020-00577-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Name of the department the work is attributed to: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Editor’s Note: Commentary by: Tasha Wyatt, https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s40037-020-00582-4.


The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the United States Department of Defense or other federal agencies.



To date, research studying health professions education scholarship units has overlooked the perspectives of research scientists in the field, despite their important role in these units. This research explores how health professions education scientists uphold and/or upend the institutional logics of the units they work within.


Recruited via snowball sampling, 29 Canadian health professions education scientists participated in semi-structured interviews that lasted between 32–55 min. Data analysis was informed by the theories of organizational institutionalism—specifically, the microfoundation element of sensemaking.


Respondents’ narrations of career success were overtly linked to their research-oriented pursuits above other expectations (i.e., teaching, service).


Respondents’ narrative revealed a mismatch between the value they associated with teaching- and service-related pursuits, and the value the institution associated with those pursuits. Participants indicated a need to reconceptualize the institutional value associated with these endeavors.
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