Dr Stephanie Best is health services researcher based in Melbourne, Australia. Her focus is on the use of implementation science and improvement methodologies to promote the translation of evidence-based findings into ‘real-world’ practice and policy to ensure the best care and treatment available reaches clinical practice. Currently working with the Australian Genomics, her work includes several projects on the implementation of genomic services into the Australian healthcare system. Other areas of research interest include professional identity, leadership, integrated care and team working.
Mobilising professional identity in multidisciplinary health and social care: Using Nominal Group Technique
The attitudes, knowledge and beliefs shared by a professional group make up one’s Professional Identity. Signature pedagogy theory identifies that we serve apprenticeships to learn how to act, think and perform in the ways of others in our chosen profession. How we construct our professional identity defines how we should behave which, in health and social care, determines the quality of care provided. Once we step outside the silo of our profession, for example into a multidisciplinary team, attitudes, knowledge and beliefs vary. To fit in we need to change, while retaining what is unique about our own profession. This mobilisation of Professional Identity can be challenging for those rooted in their original silo therefore it is crucial the shift into a multidisciplinary team is carefully managed to ensure care provision is optimised.
To investigate health and social care practitioners’ perceptions of managing Professional Identity when working in multidisciplinary teams we ran three workshops with multidisciplinary health and social care team members (N=31) and used Nominal Group Technique to organise our study. Nominal Group Technique is a structured process that ensures all participants have an opportunity to share their thoughts on a topic for discussion. Each participant was asked to write down what they felt were barriers and enablers for Professional Identity before each person was asked, one by one, to offer a factor. Once all the barriers and enablers were shared, the group categorised the responses and the practitioners were given up to ten votes to place on the areas that they felt were most significant for them. This established a ranking of the most and less important categories. After each exercise the teams were asked to review the scores and comment on the ratings. The participants were also asked to identify what support might help them mobilise their professional identity.
Through the use of Nominal Group Technique, it was evident practitioners were keen to develop a better understanding of Professional Identity. Prior to the workshop, participants appeared unfamiliar with the concept of professional identity and/or lacked the opportunity to reflect on their individual professional contribution within the multiprofessional team context. It was clear from the discussion that the majority of participants had not previously considered the role of professional identity and how this is managed and mobilised within their multiprofessional teams. Highly ranked benefits associated with Professional Identity in multiprofessional teams included shared values and better patient care and highly ranked challenges included developing a shared vision and a risk of being pigeonholed. Ideas for supporting mobilisation of Professional Identity included regular group reflection sessions and raising the concept of Professional Identity at events such as induction.
In conclusion, using Nominal Group Technique was a helpful technique to scaffold a conversation facilitating participation by all the workshop attendees. It allowed the prioritisation of influences on Professional Identity. The approach also enabled all participants to contribute, providing equity across the hierarchy within the teams which was important because participants represented managers, professionals, assistants and placement students.