An Investigation Into the Development of Professionalism Amongst Diagnostic Radiography Students

Whiting, Cheryl (2009). An Investigation Into the Development of Professionalism Amongst Diagnostic Radiography Students. EdD thesis The Open University.



This research explores diagnostic radiography students’ perceptions of professionalism and how they learn and develop their understanding of what it means to be a professional. The research takes place at a time when advances in technology, expansion of roles, demands for public service (Hilton, 2004) and economic productivity (Bloor and Maynard, 2006) generate a multitude of competing professional expectations.

BSc. (Hons) Radiography courses rely upon the clinical environment to support the development of professionalism. However, this often undermines professional development, offering its own hidden curriculum that contradicts what is taught within the academic environment (Satterwhite et al, 2000). Subsequently educators are urged to develop evidence based curricula that give attention to the context of practice and the hidden curriculum in order to ensure graduates emerge able to deal with the complexities of practice and espouse to a multidimensional professional ideology.

This longitudinal study adopted a mixed method approach to gather quantitative and qualitative data and sought to establish what one cohort of undergraduate students knew about professionalism and how this came to be learnt as they journeyed through a year long clinical placement. An original Likert style questionnaire was created to assess attitudes towards a range of professional expectations. Over the course of the year, 18 participants completed 3 questionnaires. Although a repeated measure Multi-factorial Analysis of Variance revealed that mean attitude scores were overall positively orientated, a wide range of attitudes existed. No change in the strength of attitude or convergence was observed over time.

Semi - structured interviews with ten participants supported the findings of the questionnaire and illustrated the dynamics of becoming a professional. The study showed how personal frames of reference and factors within the environment interrelated to destabilise progressive professional development by weakening some professional ideals and preserving a narrow professional identity centred on technical competence. A hidden curriculum of speed and efficiency created professionals orientated towards meeting the needs of self and the organisation rather than patients or the profession. It was concluded that professional development fell short of meeting expected requirements. The curriculum and the values and practices embedded within it did not transform personal perspectives of what it means to be a professional radiographer. There was disparity between the intended aims of the curriculum and the outcomes achieved. The findings provided an evidence base for purposeful curriculum revision that sought to attend to the apparent deficits of learning.

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