Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Instrument to Measure Psychological Contract Violation in Pharmacy Students

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Instrument to Measure Psychological Contract Violation in Pharmacy Students

Article excerpt


There is a consensus in the literature as to the need for colleges and schools of pharmacy to foster student development of professionalism. (1) Tools are available to measure pharmacy student professionalism as a comprehensive construct in and of itself (2,3) or its specific elements such as professional commitment (4) and attitudes toward pharmaceutical care. (5) However, less attention has been devoted to exploring determinants of students' professional attitudes and behaviors or the mechanisms underlying their formation.

Although developed in the employment context, the concept of psychological contracts (and their violations) may aid in the explanation of students' attitudes and subsequent behaviors, such as professional conduct, commitment to their school and the profession, and the appropriate provision of pharmaceutical care. Psychological contracts "entail beliefs about what employees believe they are entitled to receive, or should receive, because they perceive that their employer conveyed promises to provide those things" (6) and the relationship between psychological contract violations and a number of employment outcomes has been examined (eg, job satisfaction, job turnover, organizational commitment, organizational citizenship behaviors, and work performance). The purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate an instrument that measures students' perceived psychological contract violations by their pharmacy schools.

Psychological Contracts

The concept of a psychological contract traditionally has been applied in an employment context and refers to subjective beliefs held by employees regarding the organization's obligations to them. (7) According to Rousseau: "when an individual perceives that the contributions he or she makes obligates the organization to reciprocity (or vice versa), a psychological contract emerges ... it is the individual's belief in an obligation of reciprocity that constitutes the contract." (8) These perceived obligations may be implied by the organization or expressly stated. Each individual develops a unique psychological contract based upon his/her own understanding of the reciprocal obligations that exist between the employee and the organization. (9)

Psychological contracts share several characteristics. In addition to being subjective perceptions that differ between individuals, (10) these contracts are dynamic, changing over time during the employer-employee relationship. Psychological contracts involve mutual obligations, based on implied or explicit promises, in which both parties invest in their relationship with the expectation of a positive outcome. Although psychological contracts are rarely explicitly discussed, they are important determinants of employees' behaviors and attitudes. (11)

Although much of the research to date has examined psychological contracts within an employment context, psychological contracts can arise in a myriad of circumstances, such as customer-firm relations and doctor-patient interactions, and in situations where there are written as well as unwritten agreements. (10) Given relationships between students and their respective universities and schools, psychological contracts likely exist in educational settings. Anderson states that as consumers of education, students are not unlike consumers of other products and services. (12) For example, they often seek information about course offerings and may build their expectations on the information available to them when they make course selections. (12) There is evidence that students' academic expectations, contrasted with their actual experience (a psychological contract of sorts), can help identify at-risk students. (13) Pharmacy students may possess psychological contracts with various individuals and entities during their professional education, and pharmacy schools have attempted several strategies to enhance student professionalism and professional commitment, which in turn help foster psychological contracts. …

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