Exploring the Professional Values of Australian Physiotherapists

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Abstract

Background and Purpose.

A profession's values guide daily practice and professional behaviours. They clarify what professionalism means to a profession, by providing insight into the values that members of the profession aim to uphold and profess. There has been limited research into the values of the Australian physiotherapy profession, and as such, the values that guide practice and constitute professionalism are not explicit. This study aimed to make a preliminary identification of the values of the profession, by exploring the shared professional values of 14 Australian physiotherapists.

Methods.

This study was guided by a qualitative approach and constructivist paradigm. Purposive sampling was employed to identify physiotherapists who could contribute rich information to the study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and analysed using an inductive data analysis method.

Results.

The emerging professional values formed three main themes. The first theme, ‘the patient and the patient–therapist partnership’, incorporated values such as having patient trust and working collaboratively with patients. The theme labelled ‘physiotherapy knowledge, skills and practice’ included the values of having an evidence base and respecting professional boundaries. The last theme, ‘altruistic values’, was inclusive of values such as honesty, empathy and caring. The values that emerged went beyond philanthropic values, to values that guided every day practice, professional relationships and the responsibilities of being a professional.

Conclusion.

The results contribute to research orientated towards identifying the values of the profession and in doing so, clarifying what professionalism means to the Australian physiotherapy profession. Differences between the values identified by the American Physical Therapy Association and the study reported in this paper highlight the importance of identifying the values of the profession within the Australian context. In terms of practice implications, physiotherapists may be prompted to reflect on their values and how these values align with those of their patients. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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