In theory, physicians subscribe to and in their actions personify a set of virtues whose performance demands personal engagement. At the same time, they are instructed in their professional roles to remain emotionally and personally distant from those they are called to treat. The result, the authors argue, is an ethical conflict whose nature is described through an analysis of two narratives drawn from an online blog for young physicians. Confusion over professional responsibilities and personal roles were found to affect physicians' perceptions of their clinical duties and their social roles. In addition, it sets in sharp relief contemporary debates on physician training and the ethical nature of medical professionalism. Practically, the authors suggest, the confusion may contribute to early physician burnout. Methodologically, this paper promotes the use of online discussion sites as rich repositories providing an insight into real dilemmas and the actual perception of physicians' attempts to address them. It thus promotes use of such sites as a resource in which assumptions about physicians' own perceptions about the nature of their role in contemporary society can be tested.
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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