You just want a break from the hatred of failure: the lived experience of being a student physiotherapist perfectionist and considerations for educators

Jane McKay*, Kim Williams, Jennie Stewart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Perfectionism is a personality orientation associated with mental health and adjustment problems. Recent evidence demonstrates that perfectionism is widespread among students and on the rise, with recent generations of students placing increasingly more importance on perfection. Whilst the extant literature is vast, it tends to focus on psychopathology and identification of perfectionism correlates rather than the experience of student perfectionism. Furthermore, the education literature is scant and there is a need to understand the deeper processes and nuances of perfectionism, particularly within health professions education where intense study demands, competition to gain entry to educational programmes, and professional cultures may nurture the problem. This phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of ten physiotherapy students as they wrestled with perfectionism in the various facets of their studies. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken, and participants completed log sheets to document perfectionism-related experiences. Idiographic profiles were composed and interview transcripts were analysed, drawing upon features of both phenomenological and thematic analysis. Perfectionism was found to have toxic consequences for the learning experience. Harmful phenomenological experiences included perpetual and excessive achievement striving, punitive self-criticism and health and wellbeing difficulties. A range of sabotaging learning behaviours such as self-handicapping and feedback avoidance was also illuminated, and cultural and organisational influences perceived to foster perfectionism emerged. Findings are discussed in relation to underlying processes and implications for educators. The prospect of findings transferring to other educational contexts is highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Early online date12 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • Health professions education
  • Perfectionism
  • Phenomenology
  • Physiotherapy students
  • Student experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'You just want a break from the hatred of failure: the lived experience of being a student physiotherapist perfectionist and considerations for educators'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this