Walking backwards into the future of health professional practice


  • Hamish Wilson University of Otago, New Zealand https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2423-3055
  • Lucy O'Hagan Royal New Zealand College of General Practice, New Zealand
  • Martyn Williamson University of Otago, New Zealand




health professional education, critical reflection, biomedicine, biopsychosocial, complexity science


Health professional education needs to be designed so that future practitioners are well equipped for clinical and professional challenges. While the biomedical model has enabled major biological advances in all health professions, its inherent presuppositions have prevented progress in many of the more complex issues within healthcare, examples being health inequities, somatisation, chronic pain and student/clinician burnout. We suggest that students learn about the scientific origins and tacit assumptions of the biomedical model, such as reductionism, biological plausibility and clinical objectivity. Critical reflection, including interprofessional discussion, can enable students to explore its strengths and limitations. Although biomedicine will remain the dominant paradigm in both training and clinical practice, other “ways of seeing” may be helpful, including biopsychosocial and Indigenous models. Complexity sciences now provide additional understandings of human physiology and socio-cultural processes within healthcare and could also be taught explicitly as core curricula. Student-selected components may enable faculty to pilot educational initiatives in relation to specific professional challenges, which could then be further developed for all students. Critical reflection and teaching innovation are core values of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Health Professional Educators (ANZAHPE). “Walking backwards into the future” in healthcare education means identifying and critiquing our taken-for-granted assumptions, then providing future clinicians with broader frameworks and skills to respond more effectively to persistent challenges in healthcare.


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How to Cite

Wilson, H., O’Hagan, L., & Williamson, M. (2023). Walking backwards into the future of health professional practice. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 24(4), 104–122. https://doi.org/10.11157/fohpe.v24i4.701



ANZAHPE 50th Anniversary Collection