Pushing, standing and bringing to light: How medical trainees conceptualise professional resistance

Abigail Konopasky*, Ting Lan Ma, Tasha R. Wyatt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Much of the literature on harm and injustice in medical education focuses on the impact of oppression rather than trainees' efforts to create change. To acknowledge and make visible these efforts, medical education professionals must grasp how trainees perceive resistance and their role in effecting change. Employing functional linguistic and ‘everyday’ resistance theories, this critical qualitative study aims to understand trainees' conceptions of resistance practices and their representational choices in moments when they talked about and conceptualised resistance. Methods: Gathering participants through professional networks and snowball sampling, this study employed in-depth interviews to explore the conceptualisations of resistance among North American medical trainees (9 medical students, 9 residents and fellows). With the use of an applied functional linguistic analysis framework, we analysed the representational metafunction in trainees' conceptualisation of their resistance efforts against social injustice. We began with open coding for ‘everyday’ acts of resistance and then shifted to focused coding on verbal process types in participants' language to characterise their conceptualisations of resistance. Findings: Participants conceptualised their resistance practices in three distinct ways: first, an almost physical pushing back, drawing largely on material process types (doing); second, an embodied standing up and being present, based predominantly on material and relational process types (being); and third, an epistemic bringing to light, grounded mostly in mental and verbal process types (thinking). These processes of resistance reflect participants' conceptualisations of their efforts to challenge the status quo around inequity, harm and injustice in medical education. Conclusion: This study builds on resistance literature, offering a potential typology of resistance practices as pushing back, being and bringing to light. Because these are ‘everyday’ acts of resistance, these are tactics available to everyone, including faculty; we all have the power to resist, whether it is in teaching and learning or interacting with larger structures in medicine.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


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