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J Allied Health. 2008 Spring;37(1):8-14.

Perceptions of an ideal career versus perceptions of six health careers.

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  • 1Office of Nursing Workforce, Research, Planning, and Development, University of Vermont, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Burlington, VT 05405, USA.



This study was intended to compare and contrast young adults' perceptions of an ideal career versus their perceptions of six health professions: medical laboratory science, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, radiation technology, and respiratory therapy.


The study used a survey developed by May et al., which was modified and tested for application to the allied health workforce. The instrument measures 17 parallel items on a five-point Likert scale and has been assessed for reliability (coefficient a, 0.81-0.84) and content validity by a panel of experts. Analysis included descriptive statistics and paired t tests, with Bonferroni adjusted a significance set at p < 0.0028.


The study used a convenience sample of 720 young adults aged 18 to 24 yrs who were recruited between January and September 2005 at job fairs and community events in one urban area and two adjacent rural communities in a northeastern U.S. state.


All six health professions were perceived as significantly less desirable (p < 0.001) than the ideal career in the areas of "being respected" and "working with high technology." "Care for people" was the third highest ranked attribute of an ideal career, and pharmacy and radiation technology were found to be statistically significantly lower in this area (p < 0.001). Only nurses were perceived as having job security that matched the ideal, with the other professions perceived as offering significantly less job security than the ideal (p < 0.001).


Health care is increasingly dependent on highly collaborative multidisciplinary teams. Inaccurate perceptions of allied health occupations likely hamper the development of an adequate pipeline of new recruits to these professions, which has the potential to impact all health disciplines. This points to the importance of increased media/marketing portrayal of the positive aspects of careers in the allied health professions. Strategies to address this challenge and areas for further research are outlined.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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