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Occup Ther Int. 2013 Sep;20(3):105-13. doi: 10.1002/oti.1340. Epub 2013 Jan 25.

Professional confidence: conceptions held by novice occupational therapists in South Africa.

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  • 1University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.


This study aimed to explore how novice occupational therapists conceptualized professional confidence. Professional confidence is a dynamic personal belief that matures over time. It is closely linked to both competence and professional identity ensuring fitness for practice. Although professional confidence has been defined and a number of its attributes have been identified, how practitioners understand or conceptualize the phenomenon is not clearly understood. Eight novice occupational therapists undertaking their community service year in South Africa during 2011 participated in the study. Data, collected during semi-structured interviews, were analyzed using phenomenographic methodology. From the participant's descriptions, three qualitatively different ways of understanding professional confidence emerged from the data, namely knowing as an occupational therapist, believing you are an occupational therapist and being an occupational therapist. The outcome space was also described. The study did not purport to gauge whether the novice therapists were in fact confident. As professional confidence is a maturing self-belief, the findings are limited to novice occupational therapists. The findings contribute to a growing understanding of professional confidence in occupational therapy. Further research is needed in terms of what informs the conceptions held by novice therapists and how professional confidence can be assessed in graduates on completion of their educational programme.

Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


novice occupational therapists; occupational therapy education; phenomenography

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