An exploration of early-stage professional identity development: The being and becoming of first-year speech and language therapy students
The main aim of this study was to understand the experience of professional identity development in first-year SLT students. This was supported by two objectives, to understand students’ perceptions of the nature of SLT professional identity and to understand influences on their process of professional identity development. The study had a focus on first-year students, as early experiences during training are pivotal in shaping professional identity.
This interpretivist study employed hermeneutic phenomenological methodology to explore the lived experience of 11, first-year SLT students. Individual semi-structured interviews were carried out twice, at the start and end of the academic year. Data were analysed via an iterative process of coding, interpretation, and theme development.
The participants were seeking a professional identity which aligned with their own qualities and values. Characteristics perceived central to SLT identity were compassion, connection, equality, positivity, praxis, and being professional. Professional identity development was influenced by the approach of the practice educator; opportunities for autonomy; interprofessional encounters; and client interactions. The findings underline the importance of meaningful engagement in early, authentic clinical experiences for professional identity development. Practice educators are the gatekeepers to these experiences.
SLT professional identity development was a socially co-constructed, individualised process of negotiation between expectations and reality, and integration of personal and professional identities. Supporting students in reflexively engaging in this process cultivates a clinical practice which has integrity and is motivated by values.
- School of Sport and Health Sciences