ABSTRACT: The purpose of this pilot project was to gain insight into the faculty perspectives on professional socialization in physical therapy. We explored the socialization of physical therapist students through the use of focus groups with faculty members and program directors. The study was bounded by, or limited within, the socializing experiences in the academic and the clinical settings in graduate education programs. Data collection occurred over a period ofseveral weeks at conference settings. Faculty members described both implicit and explicit value transmission and believed they were actively engaged in the socializing process. The faculty roles in socializing students were similar to those described in other professions. They were responsible for establishing limits and transmitting the culture and values of the profession. Students were encouraged to remain humanistic, develop collaborative work habits, and respect individuality. Student efforts to attain autonomy were reinforced by the faculty efforts to implement adult education principles and encourage self-discovery. Most faculty members believed that they exerted a positive influence as students entered the profession.
Key Words: Faculty roles, Graduate education, Physical therapy Professional socialization.
The professional socialization process has been explored in a variety of health care professions. The predominant literature features socialization in the fields of medicine and nursing. There has been no published work on this topic in the physical therapy literature since the early 1980s. An unpublished dissertation from that period covered socialization during early work experiences rather than the period of student enrollment.1 Physical therapy faculties assume responsibility for the development of students as they move toward entry into the profession; part of this development includes socialization.
In this pilot study, we observed that many faculty groups plan activities that could be considered efforts to socialize students. We hypothesized that faculty intended for both implicit and explicit messages to be communicated to students about the roles, values, and expected behaviors of the profession. Physical therapy faculty members dedicate time to provide opportunities for students to acquire a professional identity. We held a series of focus groups to involve faculty and program directors in a discussion about the faculty role in socializing students in entry-level physical therapy programs. Some of the questions used to guide the study were: "What are the core values and expected behaviors of physical therapists?" "How does the academic experience contribute to the socialization process?" and "What are the methods used by physical therapy faculty to facilitate this process?"
The project was part of a larger endeavor structured to identify the perceptions of the socialization process by both students and faculty in the physical therapy profession. The research addressing the student perspectives provided evidence that students were aware of the efforts of the faculty to gradually initiate them into the culture of physical therapy.2
The purpose of this study was to describe the professional socialization process from the perspective of the faculty. We were also interested in discovering whether and how the process used in physical therapy differed from other health care professions. The results of this study may be helpful to the profession by adding contemporary information about professional socialization. Academic programs may use the information to guide or confirm their plans to socialize their students or as a resource for future studies.
Students entering any new field or professional group are burdened with learning the mores of the group they want to join. It is a gradual assimilation and one not easily achieved. …