Medical School Staff Perspectives on Sharing Sensitive Student Information

Conway, Clare, Kelly, Dervla M., Harney, Sarah and McKeague, Helena (2021) Medical School Staff Perspectives on Sharing Sensitive Student Information. AISHE-J: The All Ireland Journal of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, 13 (2).


This study considered the duties and role dimensions of medical school staff in the context of how they deal with sensitive student information. It focused on exploring appropriate communications about learners in training for professional practice. The authors recognized the current legal and ethical dilemmas faced in managing academic, behavioural, and/or personal student issues and aimed to research how ongoing tensions and complexities manifest in relation to learner handover. The study aimed to inform future policy development around information-sharing practice to support student progress. A live audience-response survey was combined with a one-hour focus group session. Real experiences and opinions were focused through the use of scenario-based discussion and facilitator prompts to produce a transcript. Qualitative analysis, with inductive coding by the study team, identified themes; current values, processes, approaches and context to handover. Key quotes were highlighted and survey findings charted. Staff explained how they balance trying to best support the interests of learners whilst respecting their rights to privacy. Participants echoed an ongoing need for clear instruction and explored grey areas in communication strategy. Shared, evolving concerns were discovered about entrustment and traceability, with some consensus of opinion on written record-keeping/activity logs. The study contextualized perceived risks and benefits within learner handover and provided rich insights from a medical school shop floor around how sensitive student information is handled. The findings contribute to a wider, timely conversation within healthcare education and will be instrumental in tailored policy development. Learner perspectives will be sought as a key next step.

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