Review of Grit and Resilience Literature within Health Professions Education

By Stoffel, Jaclyn M.; Cain, Jeff | American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, March 2018 | Go to article overview

Review of Grit and Resilience Literature within Health Professions Education


Stoffel, Jaclyn M., Cain, Jeff, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education


INTRODUCTION

Non-cognitive traits, defined as those skills associated with motivation, attitude, and temperament rather than intellect, are increasingly recognized as important skills to identify and develop in medical professionals, including pharmacy students. The 2015 AACP White Paper on Pharmacy Admissions recognized non-cognitive traits, similar to grit and resilience, as imperative for consideration when seeking to admit well-rounded students. (1)

The concepts of grit and resilience, terms generally used to describe the ability to persevere through hardships to meet goals, are rapidly emerging topics in both popular press and peer-reviewed literature. Resilience has been cited as a predictor of well-being (2) and grit has been found to be associated with academic and professional success independent of IQ. (3) Long considered important traits for military service (4-7) and athletic success, (8-10) these terms are increasingly being used within academic settings, particularly regarding perceived student ability (or lack thereof) to handle challenging situations and disappointment. (11-14) Increasing evidence of stress and anxiety among college students may be adding to the emerging popularity of these constructs. A 2014 study by the American College Health Association found that 54% of college students surveyed reported feeling "overwhelming anxiety" within the past 12 months. (15)

There are multiple theories as to why some students struggle with difficult aspects of school and life. One theory is the fear of failure as a result of being under increasingly more pressure to perform in order to secure post-graduate training or a desired job. (16) Today's college graduates face a tough job market as indicated by higher rates of unemployment and underemployment compared to the general public. (17) Some psychologists and education philosophers posit, however, that America's youth may simply possess less grit and resilience than previous generations because of differences in upbringing. With greater frequency, faculty members are discussing their concern regarding students' emotional fragility in response to grades and the increasing tendency to blame the teacher for poorperformance. (11) A past president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) said, "[Students] haven't developed skills in how to soothe themselves, because their parents have solved all their problems and removed the obstacles." (11)

Regardless of the causes, the growing perception that many students are ill-equipped to handle the challenges of college is forcing schools to change their approach of how to successfully advance students through the curriculum and prepare them for the "real world." Consequentially, many educators may struggle to find an appropriate balance between being supportive while also challenging students to take responsibility for their education and minimizing handholding.

Grit and resilience are often mentioned as key factors in coping with mental health pressures and are important concepts to study to better understand and improve at-risk students' chances of educational success and personal well-being. (18) In this paper, the authors delineate the similar constructs of grit and resilience. The authors review the health professions education literature regarding these topics with a focus on their roles in academic performance and wellness, and whether these traits can be taught. The paper concludes with a discussion of the numerous complexities involved with these constructs.

Grit and resilience are two related terms often used interchangeably, but in actuality are completely different constructs. Grit is defined as perseverance and passion toward long-term goals and describes sustained commitment toward completing a specific endeavor despite episodes of failure, setbacks, and adversity. (3)

Various definitions for resilience exist, (19) but the term generally refers to one's ability to maintain or regain mental health after experiencing adversity. …

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