Jack Haas, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus, sociologist, speaker, publisher


Becoming Doctors

The Adoption of a Cloak of Competence

Becoming Doctors
The Adoption of a Cloak of Competence

Jack Haas & William Shaffir

ISBN: 978-0-9733650-0-9

6" x 9" (142 pages)
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This book is a qualitative study of the professionalization of medical students in an innovative medical school at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The authors observed, talked to, and interviewed students in the full range of their student experiences, including tutorials, clinical settings, and extra-curricular activities.

Observations commenced with the students' encounter with the admission process and continued beyond their graduation as physicians. Findings are compared and contrasted with other studies of occupations and professional socialization in more traditionally organized schools.

Our analysis gives emphasis to the process of professionalization which requires a "ritual ordeal" communicating the idea of special selection, initiation, and testing before being granted professional legitimation and status. Professsionalization requires the successful adoption of a "cloak of competence" communicating to legitimating audiences the idea that special changes have taken place. This symbolic cloak identifies both professions and professionals as doing special kinds of work with trustworthy competence.

We note that the transition of neophytes to professionals in professional schools is analagous to the process whereby professions gain legitimation by communicating special trustworthiness and competence to other official legitimating audiences.