Professional identities, inter-professional relationships and collaborative working : an investigation using a constructivist phenomenological approach
This research project sets out to explore, analyse and theorise the way district nurses and social care workers construe their identity, and their relationships within the changing context of collaborative projects. Unlike previous research in this field, this project offers an alternative, relational view of exploring professional identities and inter-professional relationships. The research adopted a constructivist phenomenological approach drawing upon the theories of personal construct psychology (Kelly, 1955) and existential phenomenology (Merleau Ponty, 1962), as elaborated by Butt (2004, 1998). The project consists of three studies. The first empirical work is a preliminary study using individual interviews of students undertaking degree courses in community nursing or social work. This study is concerned with examining the students' concepts of what it means to belong to a particular occupational group and the influences that shape their ideas. Using focus groups and individual interviews, the second study explores how district nurses and social care workers negotiate their identity as a result of national changes and service developments. The final study explores interprofessional relationships of individual district nurses and social care workers, using reflective interview techniques (Hargreave, 1979, Salmon, 2003). In keeping with phenomenological methodology, data was analysed using template analysis (King, 2004). A number of emerging constructs were identified that highlight the personal, historical and contextual influences upon professional role construction and inter-professional relationships, notably: visibility and recognition, role flexibility and rigidity. In particular the findings illustrate how professional identity is constructed, challenged, and reconstructed, through on-going interaction. To facilitate role re-construction and sociality, the reflective interview techniques were adapted and extended to encourage practitioners to reflect upon their every-day practice and relationships when working in a multi-disciplinary setting.