Guidance from the humanities for professional formation

Nathan Carlin, Thomas Cole and Henry Strobel

in Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199571390
Published online August 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199665037 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbook in Public Health

Guidance from the humanities for professional formation

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  • Public Health and Epidemiology
  • Palliative Medicine


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The purpose of this chapter is to take steps to elaborate and to clarify, and to further justify, the term professional formation by focusing on the question of formation. We do so by locating the question of formation in the humanities and by focusing on what it might mean to take the soul seriously, though in a metaphorical and non-dogmatic way, when conceptualizing the work of professional formation. Another way of putting this — and this is our central argument — is to say that the humanities, and the recent field of spirituality and healthcare, ought to inform how we think about professional formation because these perspectives can help to overcome the pitfalls of professionalism, as these perspectives insist on a focus on meaning. This chapter has several parts. We begin by introducing the concept of professional formation in medical education, a concept that we believe holds much promise. We then move to a discussion of various humanistic traditions to contextualize and to develop the idea of formation more fully. Here, we draw on the Renaissance notion of the personal self and its growth through humanistic study ( studia humanitatis ), and we briefl y intimate its evolution in the thought of Matthew Arnold and Lionel Trilling. We next orient this chapter toward the subject matter of this volume — spirituality in healthcare — as we turn to a discussion of the soul in the social sciences. We draw on the experiences of medical students to demonstrate, concretely, what matters of the soul in medical education involve. Finally, we advocate the educational philosophy of Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist, as a way to safeguard against the dangers of professionalism and as a way to attend to the souls of medical students.

Chapter.  7598 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Palliative Medicine

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