Will opposites attract? Similarities and differences in students' perceptions of the stereotype profiles of other health and social care professional groups
The extent to which health and social care (HSC) students hold stereotypical views of other HSC professional groups is of great potential importance to team working in health care. This paper explores students' perceptions of different HSC professional groups at the beginning of their university programmes. Findings are presented from an analysis of baseline data collected as part of the New Generation Project longitudinal cohort study which is assessing the impact of interprofessional education over time on a range of variables including stereotyping. Questionnaires were administered to a cohort of over 1200 students from 10 different HSC professional groups entering their first year of university. Stereotypes were measured using a tool adapted from Barnes et al. (2000) designed to elicit stereotype ratings on a range of nine characteristics. The findings confirm that students arrive at university with an established and consistent set of stereotypes about other health and social care professional groups. Stereotypical profiles were compiled for each professional group indicating the distinctive characteristics of the groups as well as the similarities and differences between groups.Midwives, social workers and nurses were rated most highly on interpersonal skills and on being a team player whilst doctors were rated most highly on academic ability. Doctors, midwives and social workers were perceived as having the strongest leadership role, whilst doctors were also rated most highly on decision making. All professions were rated highly on confidence and professional competence and, with the exception of social workers, on practical skills. A comparison of profiles for each professional group reveals that, for example, pharmacists and doctors were perceived as having very similar characteristics as were social workers, midwives and nurses. However, the profiles of nurses and doctors were perceived to be very different. The implications of these similarities and differences are discussed in terms of their potential impact on interprofessional interactions, role boundaries and team working.
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