Being seen by others as we see ourselves: the congruence between the ingroup and outgroup perceptions of health and social care students

Authors

  • Sarah Hean PhD MSc BSc,

    1. Health Care Innovation Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO16 7PX, UK
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  • Jill Macleod Clark DBE PhD BSc RGN FRCN,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
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  • Kim Adams MPhil MSc BEng (Hons),

    1. Health Care Innovation Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO16 7PX, UK
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  • Debra Humphris PhD MA RN RNT,

    1. Health Care Innovation Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO16 7PX, UK
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  • Judith Lathlean DPhil MA BSc

    1. School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
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*Corresponding author. Tel. +44 23 80596677; Fax: +44 23 80597820; e-mail: jmc@soton.ac.uk

Abstract

This article examines intergroup processes amongst neophyte health and social care students who are about to embark on an interprofessional education (IPE) programme. Positive relationships between students of the different professions must be optimized to promote student learning of each other, a central objective of these courses. It has been proposed that to reduce conflict and promote harmonious intergroup relations during this IPE activity, students from each professional group should feel their own group (the ingroup) to be distinctive from other professional groups (the outgroup) on some key characteristics (intergroup differentiation). Good relations are further promoted if the characteristics they see as distinctive to their identities are also recognized as distinctive by other professional groups (mutual intergroup differentiation). The current article considers the incidence of these two factors in neophyte health and social care students and identifies sources of potential intergroup conflict. The findings of the study suggest that all groups of neophyte health and social care students perceived their ingroup as distinct from other professional groups, with the exception of audiology students. The implications of this finding to the relationships between students participating in IPE are discussed. Furthermore, in certain groups there was evidence that students of these groups were seen by others as they saw themselves. This was particularly the case for doctors and social workers and implies that these professions will suffer least from a threat to their group distinctiveness. However, there were instances where characteristics, seen as distinctive by the professional group itself, were not recognized by other groups. For example, physiotherapy students believe that being a team player, and decision making and practical skills were all distinctive characteristics of their profession. However, these features were not recognized as distinctive by other professional groups. The implications of matches/mismatches in how students see themselves, and how they may be viewed by others, are discussed in terms of their impact on student learning experiences and relationships during IPE.

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