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South African Journal of Occupational Therapy

On-line version ISSN 2310-3833
Print version ISSN 0038-2337

S. Afr. j. occup. ther. vol.42 n.3 Pretoria  2012




The sources of professional confidence in occupational therapy students



Kathy HollandI; Lyn MiddletonII; Leana UysIII

National Diploma: Occupational Therapy (Vona du Toit College, Pretoria), B(Hons), Occupational Therapy (University Pretoria), M.Education (Higher Education) (University of Natal). Dept of Occupational Therapy, University of KwaZulu-Natal
IIHonours (Nursing) (University Natal), PhD (University KwaZulu-Natal). Dept of Nursing, University of KwaZulu-Natal
IIIB Nursing (University of Pretoria), M Nursing (University of the Free State), PhD (University of the Free State). Professor Dept of Nursing, University of KwaZulu-Natal





INTRODUCTION: While undergraduate training in South Africa places an emphasis on ensuring the competence of occupational therapy graduates, very little attention has been paid to exploring their professional confidence, despite the fact that this has been highlighted as an issue for students. The foundation for professional confidence is laid during student years, and is influenced by a number of determinants, which this study aimed to identify.
METHODS AND MATERIAL: Qualitative methodology was used with a purposive sample of nineteen final year occupational therapy students. Students were invited to participate voluntarily in focus group interviews and/or submit their reflective journal. Five lecturers and six clinical supervisors at the University concerned also participated in focus group interviews. Deductive thematic analysis of the data was undertaken.
RESULTS: Two broad themes emerged. The first theme, external determinants, included clinical experience, relationships with peers, staff and patients, and the changing environment in which they worked. The second theme, internal determinants, included certain identified personal characteristics and influencers. The external and internal sources of professional confidence beliefs were either within the control of the student, or the lecturer/clinical supervisor or the profession.
DISCUSSION: A number of recommendations ranging from re-thinking clinical practicals and supervision are made. These findings have implications for student selection, teaching methodology and experiences, and the professional identity of the profession. Greater formal emphasis needs to be placed on confidence building during the undergraduate experience.

Key words: Professional confidence, occupational therapy students, occupational therapy education, clinical practical, reflective journaling, supervision



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Kathy Holland



This paper is submitted as a partial requirement for the degree of PhD (Health Sciences) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.

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