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The role of professional bodies in health professions education

Browne, Julie ORCID: 2020. The role of professional bodies in health professions education. Nestel, Debra, Reedy, Gabriel, McKenna, Lisa and Gough, Suzanne, eds. Clinical Education for the Health Professions: Theory and Practice, Singapore: Springer, pp. 1-20.

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Is healthcare education a profession in its own right? What is the position of healthcare educators? And what is the role of professional bodies? Without professional bodies, there would be no professions. This chapter explores what is meant by “profession” as distinct from a job or an occupation. It argues that a profession’s distinguishing features – which include accountability, self-regulation, altruism, and a commitment to continued high standards – are actualized through the work of its professional bodies. Healthcare educators participate in professional bodies for many reasons to do with asserting and maintaining their place as professionals. There are three main reasons why individuals join a professional body: to demonstrate and maintain their membership of a profession; to uphold their profession’s ethical standards and enhance its special position within society; and to maintain and develop their professional expertise. While each healthcare profession’s infrastructure will vary, it is usually possible to observe within each area of professional practice one or more organizations that (1) serve the public by maintaining a register of practitioners and ensuring that standards are met; (2) serve members by offering them opportunities to add to, explore, and communicate their expert knowledge base; and (3) serve the profession by acting as a collective voice, particularly on issues that affect the standing, influence, and organization of its members. In recent years, health professions education has moved away from its former position as the preserve of interested but untrained enthusiasts. It has developed a growing confidence in asserting its position as a profession requiring specialist expertise and skills, and the professional bodies that serve educators have developed accordingly. They are rising to meet new challenges, developing services to members, speaking on behalf of members with more confidence, and raising their standards to improve public accountability and engagement. Professional bodies face many challenges. First, they struggle with financial pressures caused by older and outdated models of funding, particularly around subscriptions and publishing. They must also respond to changes in healthcare work structures that are breaking down professional boundaries and hierarchies and contributing to the development of new roles and clinical specialties, resulting in multiple complex (and sometimes bureaucratic and expensive) applications and annual subscriptions for their members. Additionally, there are rapid technological, cultural, and financial shifts in education both within higher education and also in healthcare services, requiring professional bodies to be light on their feet in response to the shifting educational environment. For professional bodies to survive into the next century, further change will be necessary. Such changes will almost certainly include closer interprofessional working and the development of multi-professional collaborations and mergers. Healthcare educators, whatever their clinical or academic specialty, need to work together to raise the status of healthcare education as a profession; it is therefore important that individuals support and participate in their professional bodies as a means of developing healthcare education for the benefit of students, patients, and society as a whole.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Publisher: Springer
ISBN: 9789811361067
Date of Acceptance: 17 January 2020
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2022 11:09

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