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Professional identity in community care: The case of specialist physicians in outpatient services in Italy

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  • Bertin, Giovanni
  • Pantalone, Marta

Abstract

Due to changes in social and health needs, the reorganisation of health systems towards community and primary care requires the redefinition of different professional identities and practices. This paper focuses on the specialists in the system: the physicians who work in outpatient services (local health authorities, hospitals, and other institutions) not as dependents but under private contract. This doctor has to balance the professional culture (in terms of autonomy and indipendence of judgment) with the bureaucratic logic that rules the organisations for which he or she works. Our research objective was to identify the identity variables characterising the specialist doctor (“ideal profile”) and analyse the extent to which these differed from the doctor's actual identity (“actual profile”). From a methodological perspective, 1) we used a consensus method approach to identify the variables that define the specialist's identity, and 2) using a national web survey, we checked the distance between such characteristics and these professionals' actual identities. Involving different experts in the field of primary care, we identified 27 identity variables that appear to be at the core of specialist expertise. We then asked a representative sample of specialists to indicate how important and feasible these variables were in their work contexts and identified four main factors characterising their identities. The results demonstrate that, among experts, there is a clear perception of the need to build an identity that is linked to integration and to adopt a heuristic approach through teamwork and networking. However, this differs considerably from the logic of the specialists working in outpatient services: What emerges is the perceived difficulty of operational translation due to organisational problems or, otherwise, the constitutive elements of professional identity.

Suggested Citation

  • Bertin, Giovanni & Pantalone, Marta, 2019. "Professional identity in community care: The case of specialist physicians in outpatient services in Italy," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 226(C), pages 21-28.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:226:y:2019:i:c:p:21-28
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.02.029
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    References listed on IDEAS

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