The Role of Professional Mattering in Creating Optimal Learning Environments
The environments in which we work influence our experience and professional satisfaction. In the Josiah Macy Foundation’s recent report on improving clinical learning environments for students in healthcare professions (Irby, 2018), the authors concluded that the learning environment is influenced not only by the physical space but also by personal, social, and organizational components. In addition to the faculty-student interaction, the social component includes peer-to-peer relationships and the formation of a community of caregivers. The daily interactions between clinical instructors and other staff members creates the scaffolding that supports the educational environment. When there is discord amongst team members, the opportunity for learning is markedly decreased. When team members are validated and feel as though they matter, clinicians and learners can thrive.
We propose to discuss the importance of a clinician’s sense of professional mattering to the development of optimal learning environments. Mattering is defined as the perception that one makes a difference in the lives of others and is significant in the world. Having a positive impact on the lives of others is fundamental to the professional identities of healthcare providers. Our research suggests that positive encounters with interprofessional colleagues are critical to a sense of mattering at work and the creation of community. Through a series of quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews, we have identified that mattering is negatively correlated with burnout and is positively associated with engagement and perceived social support from colleagues. Interestingly, while members of all professions identify encounters with interprofessional colleagues as an important factor in mattering, we have found the type of social support that is most meaningful varies between professions. These findings can promote the development of a cohesive, collaborative and psychologically safe environment for clinicians and students.