Karen Moniz, a PhD candidate at the Institute of Health Sciences Education, delves into how professional cultures can help – or hinder – teaching in clinical environments  

Reflecting on her path to health sciences education, Institute of Health Sciences Education (IHSE) PhD candidate Karen Moniz, MEd, credits her childhood role models in rural Alberta with inspiring her. 

“Many people in the community I grew up in were dedicated teachers,” she recalls, smiling. “Healthcare providers were also highly regarded in the community, and I saw them doing fulfilling work.” 

Moniz opted to become a nutritionist, which led to roles in cardiac acute and intensive care units, as well as in primary care. It also paved the way to a Master of Education in Health Sciences Education and a career at the University of Alberta, where she is now Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine.  

Supervised by Peter Nugus, PhD, Associate Director (Graduate Programs) and Associate Professor at the IHSE, she is investigating how professional cultures in healthcare can foster – or hinder – health professionals’ ability to teach the next generation effectively. 

Institutional barriers  

Recognizing that education in clinical environments is critical to the learning of future healthcare providers, Moniz and her team offered clinical teaching workshops to clinicians while she was Director of Faculty and Staff Development in the Department of Family Medicine at UofA.  

“Even though the clinical teachers were really enthusiastic about receiving training and resources about education, participation wasn’t optimal,” she says. “Workload, time constraints and other factors prevented them from being able to participate.” 

These institutional barriers to participating in faculty development are the focus of Moniz’s thesis. In her research, she will also investigate how organizational cultures in healthcare can influence the relationship between professional identity as a healthcare provider and “teacher identity” (whether health professionals see themselves as educators).  

“Scholars have argued that identifying as a teacher is foundational to excellence in teaching,” Moniz explains. She adds that systemic issues, such as a lack of time in a pressurized environment, may force health professionals to miss out on activities that enhance their teaching. They may also prevent them from embracing their role as educators in clinical environments – a crucial component of the learning of future health professionals.  

By interviewing health professionals and observing their activities and the clinical environments in which they work, Moniz hopes to pinpoint not only the impediments to accessing faculty development, but also how institutions can better support their employees’ growth as teachers. 

“What we find out could help us understand more about how clinicians see themselves as teachers, how they are seen by educational and healthcare institutions and whether the value they offer as teachers is recognized,” she says. “If their teaching is valued, it can create opportunities to improve how clinical teachers are supported. On a societal level, this could contribute to optimizing the future safety and quality of care delivered to patients, and help institutions meet evolving healthcare needs.” 

Elizabeth Anne Kinsella, PhD, Director of the IHSE, says: “Karen Moniz’s ethnographic research is especially interesting given its focus on socialization and how professional cultures shape teacher identity in workplace learning.” 

“The focus on culture moves beyond individual identity to help us think more deeply about how workplace cultures may be designed to support teacher identities in health professions education in more productive ways,” she adds. 

Immediate sense of belonging  

Now in her fourth year of the program, Moniz beams when asked about her time as a PhD candidate so far. 

“At the IHSE, there was an immediate sense of belonging as well as encouragement for us, the newcomers, to engage in discussions, do presentations that would further enhance our learning and form connections with this interprofessional group and accomplished community,” she says. “It was an honour to present my proposed research to IHSE members and receive their valuable feedback this past September. 

“I think the program will have me well prepared to create evidence-based knowledge and to contribute to improving medical education for learners, educators and, ultimately, patient care.” 



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