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Professional Identity Development in Austrian Physio-, Occupational and Speech and Language Therapists – a mixed method investigation

Professional Identity (PI) has been defined as an ongoing transformative evolutionary process. PI is the adoption of specific beliefs, attributes and (ethical) values and experiences to become a member of a profession or the way individuals „think and act in line with the… group, … expressed by normative behaviour and loyalty”. Lacking clarity of PI can lead negatively to a professional’s attenuated perceived self-value, can weaken the profession itself and the confidence in performing her/his role. On the other hand, a well-developed concept of one’s PI can lead to enhanced professional confidence and a better exercise of the profession chosen.

Term: 06.07.2022 — 30.11.2024

A sequential mixed-methods design will be adopted to answer these questions, starting with the quantitative part. First, an online survey will be undertaken to explore the development and correlating variables of PI for PTs, OTs and SLTs during study and in a novice therapist stage (i.e. 1st year or work experience). Relying on the hypotheses, that a PIF assessment must be longitudinal, as it develops as described, over time, we will enroll PT, OT and SLT students of different years of study in the survey. This method was chosen because there is a lack of quantitative research within this topic. It is possible to reach a large number of students with the questionnaires. The chosen questionnaires are validated and/or have already been used in similar target groups. The questionnaires will be translated into German with the assistance of an English native speaker in an adapted process from Beaton et al.’s suggestions. It will continuously be tested as a pilot on meaning, understanding and practicability with another students’ group from our university not involved in the study and adapted afterwards, if necessary. The final translation will be subjected to a test-retest examination to establish the test reliability in advance of its distribution. Lime Survey will be used to develop, distribute, and recollect the questionnaires.

To further explore the topic and to give a deeper insight, group discussions will be adopted for this study in the second phase. Group discussions will take place after completing and analyzing the survey data. First results from the survey will serve as possible start-off points and topics to explore within the afterwards started group discussions. We hope for exploring knowledge and collective experiences, which are shared in this group. This should illuminate the went through practice and certain perspectives, which have been formed by reality within the group members.