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Research into professional identity and regulation

10 Jul 2017 | Dr Simon Christmas | Professor Alan Cribb
  • Research Papers

Research exploring practitioners’ views of the relationship of professional regulation to professional identity.

Professional identities media image

Why did we want to carry out research into professional identity?

There is very little research directly dealing with the issue of regulation’s effect on identity, this research fills that literature gap. It also builds on and answers many of the questions raised in our review of the literature on professional identity last year. So we commissioned Dr Simon Christmas and Professor Alan Cribb to analyse and conduct in-depth interviews with UK health and care practitioners from across the regulatory spectrum.

Does professional identify benefit patient care?

This is the latest in a series looking at what influence regulators have on the behaviour of the professionals they register. This study confirms that a strong professional identity benefits patient care, but that regulation’s role is less clear-cut.

How was the research carried out?

The qualitative research  follows on from our earlier literature review. Sixteen in-depth interviews were carried out with practitioners on statutory registers, accredited registers and a voluntary register, working in community and private settings in the UK. Dr Christmas said:

“We were keen to move away from the usual focus on doctors as an archetypal healthcare profession, and nurses as an archetypal ‘other’, so deliberately chose pharmacists, physiotherapists, psychotherapists and acupuncturists.”

What did the research reveal?

The research found that practitioners can gain validation of their own professional identity through a common body and the standards they need to adhere to. Christmas and Cribb also found that professionals’ perception of statutory regulation can provide identity benefits. These benefits were often described in practical terms by practitioners. Some of these advantages can be shared by accredited registers too.

The interviews and analysis offer regulators valuable insight into the minds and motivations of healthcare professionals and their effect on patient safety.

Our next paper will seek to draw out the implications of these two studies for regulatory policy.

Find out more

We also have an infographic summary of the key findings. Find out more about all our research on professional identity or read all our latest research here.