Being a physiotherapist : professional role, utilization of time an d vocational strategies

Sammanfattning: In a research series carried out between 1984 and 1988 in the county of Västerbotten in northern Sweden, various aspects of the professional role and work of physiotherapists were studied. A variety of research methods were used: questionnaires (n = 163), a time budget study (n = 149), and a qualitative interview (n = 24). Physiotherapy was considered varied and creative, but not well defined or very specific in its objectives. Physiotherapy is still a predominantly female profession, though the proportion of male physiotherapists was increasing. The proportion entering full-time employment in physiotherapy increased due both to the greater number of male graduates and the increasing number of women working full-time. A partial internal division of work between the sexes has arisen. More women than men are employed in in-patient care, while proportionately more men worked outside institutions. Most respondents were firmly in control of their treatment methods, but were somewhat restricted in their freedom to decide whom to treat, and when to terminate treatment. Few had carried out any research concerning treatment and results. The time budget study showed that the treatment of patients took up on average 33% of the physiotherapists’ gross working hours and was the largest single task. Continuing education accounted for 5%, development work for 1% and the remaining occupational tasks for 38%. Occupational area was the most important factor in explaining the distribution of working hours, when other factors were kept constant. Neither sex nor gender markedly affects the carrying out of tasks other than treatment. Nor does professional post particularly affect time utilization other than for administrative tasks. This profession has a double objective: care and service more generally and to provide physiotherapy in particular—both equally important. In order to improve the quality of physiotherapy, and at the same time to extend their own specific, theoretical body of knowledge, a number of physiotherapists have reappraised and extended their concept of the profession to include management and research in their everyday work.Conclusion: The fact that occupational area exercises such a profound influence on the work of physiotherapists, taken together with the slight influence that professional post has, reveals that the individual physiotherapist must be prepared to play a broadly defined professional role. There seems to be a wealth of skill and expertise available within the profession, which could, however, be more efficiently used if the management and organization of physiotherapy service were better adapted to serve its objectives, and if these were better delineated and communicated.