Each day over the next week I’ll post up an abstract for a paper being presented by a member of the Critical Physiotherapy Network at the In Sickness and In Health conference in Mallorca in June 2015. (You can find more information on the conference here.)
Does curing dominate caring in professional training of physiotherapy students?
By Tone Dahl-Michelsen
Physiotherapy is a profession characterized by emphasizing cure at the cost of care. Lately there has been a call for the profession to increase the focus on caring to be more in step with the demands of the 21st century health care. This implies a concern that the physiotherapy profession continues to remain too strongly focused on curing acute illness and injuries and thus not able to focus care in their professional practices in a broad sense.
In this paper, I investigate how curing and caring competences intersect with gender in the professional training and development of physiotherapy students. The aim is to explore how student as the new generation of professionals attend to curing and caring competences in their education becoming physiotherapists.
The empirical data includes participant observations and interviews with students attending skills training in the first year of a bachelor’s degree program in Norway. In the paper curing and caring are conceptualized as historical and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities within the physiotherapy profession. The analyses examine curing and caring as both binary and intertwined competences.
The findings highlight the complex intersection of curing and caring competences in the process of becoming a physiotherapist. Female and male students in this study attend to curing and caring in a similar manner. Thus, they demonstrate how there in this context are extended possibilities for both female and male student to transcend traditional gender norms. Students’ responses to curing and caring competences demonstrate that whereas the historically constructed hegemony of curing remains a continuing feature of their professional development processes, caring also emerges as an important complementary competence. A renewed emphasis on caring competences is noted in the professional practice of the participating students.
However, still there is a tendency of emphasizing curing rather than caring. Thus, I suggest some pedagogical changes in the physiotherapy programme. In short, more must be done to foreground caring competences in professional practice and to explicitly acknowledge caring as an important aspect of the physiotherapist’s professional competence.