Identifying professional characteristics of the ideal medical doctor: The laddering technique

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The aim was to examine the utility of the laddering interview technique to investigate complex issues in medical education, such as professionalism.

Method: The laddering technique was used to identify examples of professional behaviour associated with the ideal medical doctor, and to explain why participants thought these behaviours were important. Three groups were interviewed: doctors (n = 30), first-year medical students (n = 31) and patients (n = 33).

Results: All groups identified characteristics associated with a ‘communication and interpersonal skills’ theme. Data suggested the essence of the doctor–patient interaction was shared by the groups, with varying later emphases due to their different perspectives. Additionally, Doctors and Students generated characteristics associated with ‘team-working’ and ‘competence’ themes; Doctors’ conceptualisation of each theme was more detailed. Positive and negative impacts of Doctor's professional behaviour on the patient, doctor and the wider medical arena were also identified.

Conclusion: Use of laddering resulted in data-rich results for each of the three stakeholder groups, illustrating shared and divergent preferences as to the preferred characteristics of a medical doctor and effects of successful and less-successful doctor–patient interactions. The identified characteristics are relevant to the area under investigation and salient to these key stakeholders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-140
Number of pages5
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Cite this