Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 1191–1200

On the Inner Life of Physicians: Analysis of Family Medicine Residents’ Written Reflections

  • Andrea Vicini
  • Allen F. Shaughnessy
  • Ashley Duggan
Original Paper


This qualitative study introduces the broad and inclusive concept of the “inner life of physicians” and analyzes the written reflections (N = 756) of family medicine residents (N = 33) during their residency as indicative of the physicians’ inner lives. Residents completed reflective entries without specific prompts. Researchers describe unsolicited emergent categorical themes indicative of a robust inner life of the physician. Nurturing physicians’ inner life through reflection allows physicians to recognize, identify, and respond to daily emotional events. Reflections about the state of physicians’ inner lives can formulate and express fundamental human questions that concern: (a) troubling human experiences (e.g., suffering, death, luck, destiny, and death); (b) questions that surface in practicing their profession; (c) spiritually explicit questions on their beliefs and practices. Physicians’ inner lives can become a “place” where physicians look for answers and explore options for dealing with their human and professional challenges, thus enhancing the humanistic aspects of medical practice.


Inner life Medical practice Medical education Personal written reflections’ family medicine resident 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Theology and MinistryBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA
  2. 2.Tufts University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  3. 3.Tufts University Family Medicine Residency at Cambridge Health AllianceMaldenUSA
  4. 4.Communication DepartmentBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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