Stead, Joanne (2016) Becoming an Occupational Therapist: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This research explores professional identity formation amongst occupational therapy students. Professional identity is examined within an occupational science framework. Much has been written, in recent years, about the professional identity development of occupational therapists during the first stages of their career focusing on preceptorship (Morley, 2006, Tryssenaar, 1999) but the concept of initial professional identity formation remains under examined.

This thesis addresses that gap by following one student’s journey of becoming an occupational therapist from enrolment to graduating on an undergraduate occupational therapy course. Five in-depth interviews were carried out over three years. This was situated against a series of focus groups drawn from the same cohort. The Kawa model (Iwama, 2006) was used as a data collection and analytical tool.

Three overarching themes which highlight the processes involved in professional identity formation, were identified

• Establishing occupational coherence; the participants needed to make sense of their occupational history. It was important for participants to explain and present themselves as having developed occupational coherence over time.

• Managing occupational adaptation; the participants dealt with many challenges as they coped with transitions and a changing sense of self. It was important that they developed agency and feelings of competence on their professional journey.

•Developing a new identity; the participants explored how they adapted to new possibilities as they experienced the doing of occupational therapy. Their new occupational identity was congruent their own personal values.

This interpretative phenomenological analysis makes a significant contribution to the small body of knowledge around professional identity formation in occupational therapy. The longitudinal approach created a nuanced narrative which expounds the complex ongoing process. It highlighted the importance of paying attention to the processes of doing, being, belonging and becoming. The fundamental importance of enabling students to develop an occupational perspective to understand their developing professional identity is identified.

FINAL THESIS - STEAD.pdf - Accepted Version
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