The self-construal of nurses and doctors: beliefs on interdependence and independence in the care of older people




To compare the self-construal of nurses and doctors and establish whether their roles affect perceptions of independence and interdependence.


Previous research has identified that errors in patient care occur when health professionals do not work cohesively as a team and have divergent beliefs about collaboration. Thus, it is important to understand factors shaping these beliefs. Although these are usually explained by aspects of group norms, the concept of self-construal may serve as an underlying explanation.


A quasi-experimental design was used.


One hundred and two nurses and doctors working in three nursing homes in Belgium took part in this study in 2009.


Nurses' and doctors' self-construal was measured at their workplace, using Singelis' self-construal scale. Statistical differences between nurses and doctors were investigated using analysis of covariance.


Results showed statistically significant differences between doctors' and nurses' self-construal. Doctors reported higher and dominant levels of ‘independent self-construal’ compared with nurses. There were no differences between nurses and doctors for interdependence. However, gender differences emerged with male doctors reporting lower levels of interdependent self-construal than male nurses. Conversely, female doctors reported higher levels of interdependent self-construal than female nurses.


Differences in the roles and training of nurses and doctors and in knowledge of their interdependencies may explain differences in self-construal. This might be useful for understanding why nurses and doctors develop divergent attitudes towards teamwork. Training that focuses on sharing knowledge on team interdependencies may positively influence teamwork attitudes and behaviour.