Emergent interprofessionalism: an exploratory study of health graduates' transition into contemporary professional practice
The thesis examines graduates’ experiences of practice roles in their respective field of health care and in collaboration with other professions. An interpretivist orientation underpins the research, using hermeneutic phenomenological methodology to study the temporal process of health science graduates’ first year of professional practice in contemporary health care contexts. Specifically, it focuses on 18 graduates from six health professions, who develop their practice in working contexts that intersect professional boundaries.
In complex health environments, where health challenges go beyond the knowledge and skills of any single profession, there is growing concern that health care practitioners lack capability to collaborate with each other. Traditionally health professions maintain distinctive practices and members are expected to adhere to the norms and codes of conduct overseen by accreditation and regulatory authorities specific to the profession. In working contexts of uncertain and changing health complexities, health professionals are increasingly required to work collaboratively to provide effective, efficient health care delivery. Graduates now entering the health care workforce can expect to undertake professional and interprofessional practices, requiring them to intersect knowledge and practice boundaries that have been built over years of socialization in their respective professions.
Findings of this exploratory study provide unique insight into graduates’ early professional practice at and beyond the interface of professional boundaries. Graduates’ professional identity is strengthened through communicating a distinct professional perspective to other professions, while professional knowledge and practice boundaries become increasingly permeable through collaborative practice. Over time, graduates expand their professional perspectives and extend their practice roles when working collaboratively. Thus, graduates are shown to develop dual practices: at times working in their respective professions, concurrent with establishing flexible working relationships with members of other professions.
These findings support continuing socialisation into distinct professions during initial professional education programmes, in order to develop graduate capability for becoming a functioning member of a profession. Concurrent with early socialisation into professions, there is an additional requirement for continuing development of interprofessional education that prepares graduate capability for working in dual practice. Specifically, the timing and placement of interprofessional education (IPE) initiatives should be considered, to ensure the relevance of IPE to the developmental stages of student learning. Equally, professional development during the graduate year should focus on graduates establishing dual practice capability, through ongoing opportunities to develop flexible working relationships among professions.