|Year : 2023 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 107-113
The occupational prestige of the physiotherapy profession: Perception of physiotherapy students
Chigozie I Uchenwoke1, Oliver C Mba1, Ijeoma B Anieto2, Stephen S Ede3, Antoninus O Ezeukwu1, Chisom F Okoh2
1 Department of Medical Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health Sciences and Technology, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Enugu State, Nigeria
2 Department of Medical Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health Sciences and Technology, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Enugu State, Nigeria; Department of Gerontology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
3 Department of Gerontology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK; Department of Physiotherapy, College of Allied Health Sciences, Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State, Nigeria
|Date of Submission||07-Apr-2022|
|Date of Decision||29-Jun-2022|
|Date of Acceptance||01-Oct-2022|
|Date of Web Publication||21-Mar-2023|
Stephen S Ede
Department of Physiotherapy, College of Allied Health Sciences, Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Background: Occupational prestige defines the social standing of a profession. It is a useful indicator of the profession’s marketability and desirability. Objectives: This study aimed at determining the perception of Nigerian students on the prestige of the physiotherapy profession relative to some other selected occupations, and how their perception was influenced by some selected sociodemographics. Materials and Methods: Four hundred and twenty-two copies of a self-administered questionnaire were distributed, completed, and returned from students on the two campuses in Southeastern Nigeria. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, Kendall’s W, and chi-square analysis. Results: Respondents included 212 males (50.2%) and 210 females (49.8%). Most of them were between the ages of 20 and 30 years (88.6%). The result of the study showed that Physiotherapy was ranked second on the levels of education, social standing, and responsibility; and third on the levels of income and usefulness to society. The only sociodemographics that influenced the overall perceived occupational prestige of the Physiotherapy profession significantly were age and gender (P < 0.05). Conclusion: There is a need to further improve and maintain the social standing of the physiotherapy profession, to bring about a more improved perception of their profession by the students and the public.
Keywords: Nigeria, occupational prestige, perception, physiotherapy profession, physiotherapy students
|How to cite this article:|
Uchenwoke CI, Mba OC, Anieto IB, Ede SS, Ezeukwu AO, Okoh CF. The occupational prestige of the physiotherapy profession: Perception of physiotherapy students. Int J Med Health Dev 2023;28:107-13
|How to cite this URL:|
Uchenwoke CI, Mba OC, Anieto IB, Ede SS, Ezeukwu AO, Okoh CF. The occupational prestige of the physiotherapy profession: Perception of physiotherapy students. Int J Med Health Dev [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Jun 3];28:107-13. Available from: https://www.ijmhdev.com/text.asp?2023/28/2/107/372146
| Introduction|| |
Any profession is characterized by the social standing it occupies concerning other professions and in modern society, social position is determined to a great extent by a person’s occupation or that of his or her parents rather than inherited standing. Evidence shows that a person’s character, level of intelligence and education, ability, and personal acceptability are assumed from an occupational label., Professions like medicine, politics, and legal professions are associated with power, prestige, and material reward. The social standing of a profession is referred to as occupational prestige and is frequently evaluated on five dimensions, which are levels of income, education, social standing, responsibility, and usefulness to society.
Occupational prestige, a useful indicator of every profession’s marketability and desirability is quite important to Nigerian students in the face of troubling economic times. A strong professional identity within any field is considered significant for professional prominence, attractiveness, and success; and is central to general job satisfaction, performance, and retention of the individual within professions. Several studies on career selection, satisfaction, and aspirations within the medical profession have been reported previously,,, whereas studies on the professional image have reported that physiotherapy had a poor image and little in the way of professional status granted to it by medical practitioners and laymen., A few studies have evaluated the perception of physiotherapy students towards their prospective profession relative to other occupations,,, whereas a Nigerian study has reported physiotherapists’ perception of the profession relative to other professions as having moderate occupational prestige standing.
The practice of Physiotherapy in Nigeria has undergone several notable milestones from its onset in 1946 by an expatriate chartered physiotherapist. Physiotherapy training in Nigeria commenced in 1966, and today, degrees in physiotherapy are available in many universities in Nigeria. Physiotherapy services are available in tertiary and secondary health institutions in all state capitals, the federal capital territory, and most other major towns in the country. Physiotherapy services are also available in a few private clinics and hospitals, sports commissions, schools, and institutionalized care centers for individuals with physical disabilities. Community-based physiotherapy services are currently well-practiced in the country. Physiotherapy practice in Nigeria is regulated by the Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Registration Board.
Relatively few studies have evaluated physiotherapists’ perception of their profession,, whereas few studies have also evaluated physiotherapy students’ perception of their prospective profession., However, published data on the perception of occupational prestige of physiotherapy students from Nigeria are not readily available. In order to promote the professional image and recognition among Nigerian physiotherapy students and the general public, and further enhance their self-worth as professionals, this study was, therefore, conducted to determine Nigerian physiotherapy students’ perception of their prospective profession’s occupational prestige relative to 11 other selected occupations. The findings of this study will guide the physiotherapy professional bodies and other concerned stakeholder with evidence for discussing the attractiveness, values and comparative impressions that the profession attract. This could help in guiding future students at their phase of choosing their university study program.
| Materials and Methods|| |
This survey was approved by the Health Research Ethics Committee of the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku-Ozalla (Reference no: NHREC/05/01/2008B-FWA00002458-IRB00002323). Respondents were second to fifth-year students of the Medical Rehabilitation (Physiotherapy) department at the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. Data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire, adapted from that used in the study by Akinpelu et al. The questionnaire by Akinpelu et al. was modified during a focus group discussion. Three physiotherapists, four physiotherapy students, and two career guardians/counselors participated in the focus group discussion. The lead author moderated the discussion; two authors took notes independent of each other, and a third author served as an observer at the focus group discussion. At the end of the group discussion, we agreed to maintain the 12 professions that required some form of post-secondary school education as adapted by Akinpelu et al. They include the following engineers, pharmacists, accountants, architects, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, secondary school teachers, police officers, lawyers, medical laboratory scientists, and journalists. The adapted questionnaire was pretested in a pilot study for its face and content validity among 15 physiotherapy students, who were then involved in a debriefing interview. They reported no difficulty in comprehending or completing the questionnaire. Close-ended questions in section A were used to obtain the sociodemographic information of the physiotherapy students. Section B was used to find out the perception of physiotherapy students on its prospective profession’s occupational prestige in terms of level of income, level of education, social standing, level of responsibility, and level of usefulness. The physiotherapy students were requested to rank the listed 12 occupations, using a 6-point bipolar interval scale on 5 dimensions (levels of income, education, social standing, responsibility, and usefulness to the society). On the scale, 1 and 2 represented low, 3 and 4 represented moderate, and 5 and 6 represented high ranking. Although section C assessed awareness and perception of physiotherapy as a profession with questions and responses in a Likert scale aimed at identifying the accuracy of their knowledge about the profession.
Copies of the questionnaires were mailed to one contact person in each of the universities who served as facilitators for the distribution and collection of copies of the questionnaires from other physiotherapy students. Each facilitator was provided with two large stamped envelopes to facilitate the return of completed copies of the questionnaires. Regular telephone communication was maintained with the facilitators to ensure a good return rate. A total of 478 copies were sent out. Informed consent was also sought and obtained before the study.
Data were summarized using descriptive statistics of frequencies and percentages. The degree of consensus/concordance (level of agreement) of the occupational prestige was analyzed using Kendall’s W test. The influence of age, gender, education, level of study, and institution on physiotherapy students’ overall perceived occupational prestige was analyzed using the Chi-square test. The level of significance (α) was set at 0.05.
| Results|| |
Four hundred and twenty-two out of the 478 copies of the questionnaires distributed were completed and returned, giving an 88.3% response rate. The sociodemographic characteristics of the respondents as presented in [Table 1] showed that 374 (88.6%) of the students were within the age range of 20–30 years. These included 212 males (50.2%) and 210 females (49.8%), and most of them were fifth-year students 122 (28.9%). A low level of agreement (high disagreement) was found among raters, with Kendall’s W = 0.215 [Table 2].
|Table 2: Degree of consensus (Kendall’s coefficient of concordance, W) on the five occupational prestige domains|
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Doctors were ranked highest (10.45, i.e. mean rank) on level of income. Physiotherapists were ranked third (8.21) below pharmacists (8.49), whereas secondary school teachers were the least ranked (2.68) on level of income [Figure 1]. On the level of education, physiotherapists were ranked (8.49) second to doctors (9.74). Pharmacists were ranked third (8.38) next to physiotherapists, whereas police officers (2.2) were the least ranked [Figure 2]. The professionals in the first position on the level of social standing were doctors (9.7), followed by physiotherapists (7.85), slightly above the lawyers ranking third (7.84), and the pharmacists ranking fourth (7.82), whereas police officers (3.06) were the least ranked [Figure 3]. On the level of responsibility, Physiotherapists were ranked second (8.95) below doctors (9.39), and above nurses (8.7), whereas police officers (3.53) maintained the least rank [Figure 4]. On the level of usefulness to society, Physiotherapists were ranked third (8.46) below the doctors (9.05) and nurses (8.55). Pharmacists and Secondary school teachers were ranked fourth (7.72) and fifth (6.68), whereas police officers (4.23) were again the least ranked [Figure 5]. [Figure 6] shows that overall, physiotherapists were ranked second (41.96) in occupational prestige. The professionals with the highest mean overall ranking were doctors (48.33). Nurses (40.27) and pharmacists (40.13) were ranked third and fourth, respectively, whereas secondary school teachers were ranked 11th (22.72) and police officers ranked least (15.82).
Among the sociodemographics, only age and gender significantly influenced the perceived overall occupational prestige of physiotherapy by physiotherapy students [Table 3].
|Table 3: Influence of sociodemographic variables on overall occupational prestige (n = 422)|
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| Discussion|| |
The response rate of 88.3% is high, considering the mode of administration and retrieval. The sample could be said to be representative of physiotherapy students in South-Eastern Nigeria because the response was obtained from both states of the South East, Nigeria where physiotherapy is studied. The gender difference in this study was not significant. The result of the study shows that a greater proportion of the students were between the ages of 20-and 30 years (88.6%). Also, the findings revealed that a greater percentage of the respondents were male (50.2%). It also shows that majority of the participants were in their 5th year of study (28.9%) as undergraduate students. These findings are consistent with Akinpelu et al. a cross-sectional survey on Nigerian Physiotherapist’s perceptions of their profession’s prestige and implications showed that there was a greater percentage of male (61.9%) than female Physiotherapists and the higher proportion were between the ages of 20–39 years, although the subject participants in the present study were Physiotherapy students. These findings also agree with a cross-sectional study by Sarkar (2007), where he investigated the perception of Physiotherapy students regarding their prospective profession in Bangladesh. His findings showed that most of the respondents were between the ages of 22-and 25 years (58.4%) and involved a greater percentage of male (54.2%) than female students. However, these present findings contrasted with the study by Turner on the ‘Perceptions of Australian Physiotherapy students on the occupational prestige of Physiotherapy’ which reported that, out of the 258 undergraduate physiotherapy students that participated, a greater percentage were female (67%), and a greater number were in the 2nd year of their degree course (35%). This present study also differed from the findings of Whitfield et al. as a comparative analysis of the undergraduate Physiotherapy student’s perceptions of the various professions in England. The result showed that 80% of the student’s population that participated were female. This disparity might be due to differences in study location, as the present study was conducted in Nigeria where the proportion of women engaging in the Physiotherapy profession could be said to be moderately low.
Physiotherapy students in South-Eastern Nigeria ranked their profession third on the level of income. This result is similar to that of Chung and Whitfield; Turner and Whitfield, where the Australian public considered Physiotherapy to have a high level of income and was ranked third above the nurses which had an intermediate position. This finding, however, contrasted with the studies of Akinpelu et al., Whitfield et al. Turner, and Mandy and Mandy were studies in South-Western Nigeria, England, Australia and America ranked Physiotherapy seventh and sixth on the level of income relative to the other eleven selected occupations. Also, a study by Chung and Whitfield, involved a comparison of the social standing of the design professions in Korea and Australia. It was reported that the design professions (Architect, Graphic Designer, Interior Designer, etc.) were ranked higher than the physiotherapy profession which was ranked eighth relative to the other fourteen selected occupations. This disparity could be a result of the difference in study population (as this present study involved a larger number of participants as compared to the previous studies), location, and improved awareness of the profession in recent years which has affected physiotherapy student’s perceptions positively on the level of income of the profession.
On the level of education, Physiotherapists were ranked second only to the doctors. This finding is similar to those of Akinpelu et al., Whitfield et al. and Turner. In these previous studies, Nigerian practicing physiotherapists and physiotherapy students in England and Australia ranked physiotherapy second to third on the level of education relative to the other selected occupations. It is, however, interesting to note that physiotherapists were ranked above lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, nurses, and medical laboratory scientists who require an equal number of years of education at the university level. Although this might partly be due to possible bias about ones profession, it shows consistency with previous studies on ranking and perceptions of physiotherapy students. There were no studies to validate this claims from where students of other profession comparatively ranked their perception about physiotherapy relative to their own program.
Physiotherapy students in South-Eastern Nigeria ranked their profession second on the level of social standing. The professionals having a higher social status than physiotherapists are the doctors, which were perceived by physiotherapy students in the Southeast as probably better known and are accorded more respect by the Nigerian public. This result corroborated that of Whitfield et al. and Turner. In these studies, physiotherapists were ranked among the top three professionals on the level of social standing by physiotherapy students. In the study by Akinpelu et al. the ranking of physiotherapists on the level of social standing was lower than the ranking reported in this study. This difference might be because of Akinpelu et al. involved Nigerian Physiotherapists who may have had a better perception of the profession as compared to physiotherapy students that participated in this present study.
The perception of the respondents of their prospective profession on the level of responsibility could be said to be high (second) just below the doctors. This finding concurs with that of Turner and Whitfield, and Turner, who reported physiotherapists to be among the “top three” professionals, with just the judges and doctors above them. This finding however differs from that of Akinpelu et al., and Chung and Whitfield. Akinpelu et al. reported that Nigerian Physiotherapists rated their profession to be moderate (fifth) below the accountants, nurses, doctors, and secondary school teachers in that order on the level of responsibility. Chung and Whitfield reported that the Korean and Australian public perceived physiotherapists as having an intermediate (moderate) level of responsibility alongside the police officers and nurses. However, police officers are perceived to have the lowest occupational prestige in all dimensions by physiotherapy students in Nigeria.
The perceived high level (third) of usefulness to the society in this study was supported by that of Akinpelu et al., Whitfield et al. and Turner, who reported that a physiotherapist was ranked third in terms of the perceived usefulness to the society by physiotherapy students, below the doctors and judges. Mandy and Mandy reported it to be second, just below the doctors.
Physiotherapy students in south-eastern Nigeria perceived their profession as having overall high occupational prestige relative to the other occupations just below the doctors. This finding is very similar to the study by Turner, who reported physiotherapy as having a high occupational prestige among the Australian physiotherapy students. This, however, differs from the study by Akinpelu et al. where Nigerian physiotherapists perceived their profession as having overall moderate occupational prestige below four other professionals (accountants, lawyers, doctors, and engineers). Their participants gave reasons that their rankings were influenced by the level of services they render to ensuring a healthy, functional and optimal quality of life to people of all age group.
The Nigerian physiotherapy student’s perception in the south-east as having overall high occupational prestige may be regarded as a reflection of their self-worth as professionals. If there is any time that the prestige of physiotherapy should be perceived as high, at least by its students, it is the 21st century. According to Dean, physiotherapists in the 21st century are uniquely positioned to lead in health promotion and prevention of lifestyle conditions, which have escalated to epidemic proportions in many high-income, middle-income, and even low-income countries.
However, this study finding could be undermined by possible bias in response that might have played out since the study population were mainly physiotherapist. Future studies are recommended for a mixed professional comparative study of mixed professional participants.
| Conclusion|| |
Nigerian physiotherapy students perceived their profession as having a good professional social standing. However, there is a need for the professional associations and other stakeholders to create further awareness of the profession and implore Nigerian physiotherapy students to improve their understanding of their roles in the 21st century as noninvasive practitioners in promoting the health of individuals and the society.
We appreciate the Department of Medical Rehabilitation, University of Nigeria, Enugu for providing necessary support required for the study.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
UC, ES, and MO made a substantial contribution to data analysis and wrote the first draft of the article. NI, EA, and OC contributed to the conceptualization, project administration, data collection, and revision of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript draft.
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6]
[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]