Credentials Display

Theresa M. Sullivan, B.Sc.(O.T.), M.A., PhD (Candidate), O.T. Reg. (MB)

Andrea K. Thiessen, BSc., MOT, O.T. Reg. (MB)


Background: Professionalism is a dynamic, socially constructed idea, rendering it difficult to comprehend. Though characterized by the demonstration of values and behaviors, its meaning has not been fully explored and remains tacit. To explore how first- and second-year master’s of occupational therapy students conceptualize professionalism.

Method: This qualitative pilot study evolved from an interpretivist theoretical perspective. Convenience sampling yielded four first-year and seven second-year students from one entry-level master’s program to participate in two separate focus groups. Line-by-line constant comparison methods were used to analyze the data and identify categories. An audit trail, peer debriefing, and member checking were employed.

Results: Data analysis of the first-year focus group generated three categories: Searching for explicit examples, Responsibility to the profession, and Building and fulfilling societal responsibility. Analysis of the second-year focus group yielded two categories: Professional values and behaviors and Professionalism as socially constructed.

Conclusion: Professionalism is a dynamic concept requiring nuanced understandings specific to context. Students should be encouraged to develop reflective abilities allowing them to analyze and act in a way that is most appropriate for the situation. Understanding students’ conceptualizations of professionalism may better allow occupational therapy regulators, managers, and academic and fieldwork educators to identify teaching and research priorities.


Theresa M. Sullivan, B.Sc.(O.T.), M.A., PhD (Candidate), O.T. Reg. (MB) is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Manitoba, R106-771 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, R3E 0T6. Telephone: (204) 789-3412. E-mail: Theresa.Sullivan@med.umanitoba.ca

Andrea K. Thiessen, BSc., MOT, O.T. Reg. (MB) is an occupational therapist in the Brandon Home Care and Long-term Care programs, B-150 7th St. Brandon, MB. R7A 7M2. Telephone: (204) 761-8202. E-mail: athiessen@pmh-mb.ca