Adams, Karen Lesley (2017) 'A Juggling Act!': A Socio-Material Analysis of the Role and Identity of Practice Teachers in the UK National Health Service. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Practice teachers within the UK National Health Service have had an unstable history during which their status has fluctuated. They belong to that category of occupations where there is a dual role identity, the practice teacher element being subordinate or secondary to a clinical role which is often aligned to additional leadership and management responsibilities. The secondary nature of the role contributes to the liminal status of this small professional group and this affects the professional identity of practice teachers and the extent to which the role can maintain itself and achieve recognition. This study seeks to reconcile identity and socio-material theory in order to offer innovative and original insights into how the practice teachers dual professional identity develops and how they learn and enact their role.

This study develops empirical insights into the role and attributes of practice teachers and the context in which they work in order to produce a body of knowledge which could inform their preparation for the role. One to one interviews were carried out with ten practice teachers, four managers and eight specialist community nursing students in one region of the UK. In addition a focus group interview was conducted with six specialist community nurse educators drawn from a national organisation, and one to one interviews were conducted with the chair of a body representing nurse educators and a regulatory body representative. The analysis was framed by the socio-material literature and this illuminated the broader range of factors influencing learning and their impact upon professional roles.

The findings suggest that health service reforms in recent years have led to the development of an efficiency driven model of health care and this impinges upon practice teacher roles and practice learning. The evidence indicated an absence of an infrastructure to support the practice teacher role in all its aspects and as a consequence the role is ambiguous and diffuse. A range of differing socio-material factors influence the specific localised contexts in which practice teachers experience and learn their role. As a consequence practice teacher roles are assembled in different ways and they are thus not a homogenous group. A corollary of this is that the professional identity of practice teachers is unstable and they have struggled to develop a shared identity. The findings depict practice teachers who have a capacity for self-determination and who are proactive in attempting to establish a more stable professional identity.

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