Perceptions of professional identity and interprofessional working in children's services

Atkins, Christine Ann Vanessa (2018) Perceptions of professional identity and interprofessional working in children's services. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Little is known about how frontline professionals’ perceptions of identity and interprofessional working (IPW) impacts on their ability to work collaboratively. This study contributes to a better understanding of the role of professional identity in collaborative working through an exploration of the views of four professional groups; early years professionals, health visitors, police officers and social workers, who come together within the framework of the team around the child (TAC). The research adopted a mixed-methods design using a questionnaire (n=124) and semi-structured interviews (n=36). The questionnaires were analysed by comparing the mean ratings professionals gave to their own professional characteristics and the other three professions and the interviews were analysed using an interpretative phenomenological approach to gain more insight into professionals’ perceptions of their identity and experiences of working together. The findings revealed that the professionals had a good understanding of their differing status within collaborative working and sought to maintain their professional identity rather than adopting an interprofessional persona. Working together was not viewed as a joint enterprise and professionals questioned whether it was necessary to develop interprofessional relationships to work effectively. Despite stating that they generally worked well together professionals were quite critical of each other’s practice and blamed each other when things went wrong. Issues were raised about the efficacy of the TAC model in terms of the lead role, the quality of information sharing and discussion, and the fear of discord between professionals. The study highlights that professionals are not as committed to IPW as policy makers and organisations assume. There needs to be more awareness at all levels of the impact of professional identity, intergroup theory and a supportive environment on IPW. The mindset that dismisses the importance of professional relationships must be changed to enhance the development of trust between professionals. A reconfiguration of services with more opportunities for contact between professionals would support this. It is recommended that the TAC model is restructured with independent leadership, clear guidelines of professional responsibility and improved organisational support. Realistic group conflict theory could be used as a framework to help professionals acknowledge and manage conflict between them. Further research is recommended to develop a wider understanding of professionals’ perceptions of professional identity and IPW.

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