A recent study in Physiotherapy Canada looked to try to identify core physiotherapy professional values from both primary and grey literature and the views of physiotherapists attending the 2016 CPA Congress.
The findings of the study perhaps unsurprising, with 10 values coming out most strongly:
- compassion and caring
- patient and client centred
- social responsibility
What is interesting about these values is not so much that they are stated at all – after all, most established health professions could and do claim similar values – but rather how they are acquired.
Physiotherapy training programmes go to inordinate amounts of care staircasing the students’ learning in areas like cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neurological assessment and treatment, but spend almost no time overtly developing professional values.
The key here is the word overt. Imagine if a value like integrity was treated with as much care and attention as, say, exercise prescription or balance retraining.
Students would begin, perhaps, with a broad conceptual understanding of some of the precursors to integrity; maybe learning that integrity is not morality and that people can do bad things with integrity as well as good things, and the different meanings of the word (the integrity of a natural environment, for instance).
Students might then go on to learn some of the different variations on the idea of integrity applicable to healthcare: personal integrity, the role of integrity in illness and the loss of the sense of ‘self’, and integrity as difference and otherness, and go on from here to think about how physiotherapy practices help people re-acquire a sense of lost integrity (wholeness).
Fortunately, physiotherapists seem to acquire a basic appreciation for the concept on integrity through their work. After all, as Hudon, Ehrmann Feldman and Hunt showed recently, physiotherapists experience “significant challenges” in upholding core professional values like equity, competence, and autonomy (link).
It’s odd though that we take so much care to teach our students assessment and treatment techniques, but assume professional values will be learnt by osmosis.
“These challenges illustrate multiple facets of physical therapists’ struggles to uphold moral commitments and preserve their sense of professional integrity while providing care to injured workers within a complex health service system”Hudon, Ehrmann Feldman & Hunt (2018)
Reference and link
Boyczuk, A.M., Deloyer, J.J., Ferrigan, K.F., Muncaster, K.M., Dal Bello-Haas, V., & Miller, P.A. (2019). Professional Values: Results of a Scoping Review and Preliminary Canadian Survey. Physiotherapy Canada 71:2, 134-143. doi:10.3138/ptc.2017-70.e
Hudon, A., Ehrmann Feldman, D., & Hunt, M. (2019). Tensions Living Out Professional Values for Physical Therapists Treating Injured Workers. Qualitative Health Research, 29(6), 876–888. doi:10.1177/1049732318803589