Student Physiotherapists' Narratives and the Construction of Professional identities

  • Alison Chambers

Student thesis: Doctor of Education


Drawing upon the biographical narratives of eight student physiotherapists and situated within an interpretive paradigm this thesis has explored the construction of professional identities within physiotherapy education. It has been predicated upon notions of identity as constructed through social interactions, therefore a relational concept requiring interaction, enactment and reciprocity. It took place within a contemporary professional context epitomised by increasing interprofessionalism challenging notions of what being a physiotherapist means. The main findings of this study suggest that student physiotherapists enter physiotherapy education (or very soon after, develop) with a well formed idea of what being a physiotherapist means, constructing an idealised professional self. This idealised professional self becomes the lens through which they subsequently experience and evaluate their professional education experiences.The process of constructing professional identities involves student physiotherapists in a continuous cycle of performance, mediation and impression management, through which they seek opportunities to confirm their idealised professional self. The findings of this thesis suggest that student physiotherapists exercise individual agency to construct socially and spatially situated professional identities in everyday professional interaction and supports contemporary notions of professional socialisation as interactive.This thesis contributes to the contemporary understanding of the process of identity construction. Theoretically, it emphasises the concept of role models and highlights the importance of anti-role models or disidentification. Practically, it offers physiotherapy educators the opportunity to reconsider the complexities of professional identity and its place within the learning context. Finally, for the students who took part in this study telling their stories has rendered their experiences with meaning and their stories have the capacity to become important cultural tools for future students.  
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAndrew Howes (Supervisor)


  • Narrative
  • Professional identity
  • Physiotherapy

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