How to meet changing professional practices?
Changing professional practices refers to the constant changes within the welfare state related to profession’s regulatory framework, governance, and the development of knowledge. This development demands an increasing knowledge-based practice and assurance of quality in welfare services. These changes provide a greater complexity in the professional practices we wish to study (health, welfare and education). Facing these changes, the following key topics stand out.
Interprofessionalism and Cooperation
Over the years welfare services have become more fragmented. Professionals and service users, patients and students need to better collaborate across service units and management levels in order to ensure coordinated services. Research shows that interprofessional education (IPE) is key to improving collaboration in practice (IPC) and there is a need for research into both areas, at macro, meso and micro levels. The exploration of different aspects of collaboration can contribute to knowledge development of the phenomenon of inter-professionalism and collaboration. In addition the challenges it may entail, and how to achieve functioning collaboration between service users, professionals, teams as well as organisations are studied.
The application and implementation of knowledge to improve practice
In addition to knowledge development the PhD candidates must be prepared to implement this knowledge in order to change complex practices in accordance with research results. Ability to conduct critical discussions of research results in light of both the overall social and professional values is of significance. This includes openness to practical judgments in a professional practitioner’s daily life, particularly those issues, where it is no simple matter to conduct research and collect evidence.
Comparisons can be done on many levels and is likely to produce constitutive features of what is being compared. That may involve analysing similarities and differences between the various professions with respect to professional practice and concepts of knowledge, within a country or across borders. It can also involve comparing professional practice within one profession over time. Comparison may arise spontaneously in discussions in multiprofessional groups and it can also be a planned activity when concepts and theories from the various professions are compared. Both unique and synthesizing features will be assessed which assumably will enable understanding of integration and differentiation of professions.
This is a relatively new term used in the public sector. In this context, innovation should be understood as creative thinking that will enable research to find its potential to change practice for the better. A critical perspective is therefore necessary. Innovation can include both changes that trickle down from top management and those developed from the bottom up through professional practice. According to The Official Norwegian Report 2011: “Innovation in care” (Innovasjon i Omsorg) doesn’t need to be based on new research or technical knowledge, but it can be concerned with knowledge that is employed in a new context or in a new way.
Active involvement of those that are partners in the research, be they users or practitioners, is increasingly on the research agenda. "Collaborative Research" and "co-research" are approaches that involve different stakeholders, who bring together their knowledge, experience, biographies and narratives to create a significant impact on the research process. This happens in the interface of the personal, the professional and the institutional. It requires understanding of interaction, communication, power relations, different cognitive approaches and methodological measures, which, when seen together, can constitute a practice-relevant methodology.
A common feature in the practice fields of health, welfare and education is how the professions are largely based on relationships with the patient, the pupil, the user or the next of kin. The research school will throw a spotlight on how conditions for professional relations change in light of structural changes taking place. Characteristically, the relational side of the profession challenges the traditional distinction between the personal and the professional. Developing professionalism in a context where relations and emotions are dominant requires an understanding of intra-and inter-personal, institutional and societal dimensions of relations. The focus on relations also allows for issues related to ethics and gender.
Equality in the broadest sense
Professions in the welfare state must safeguard the central principles of equality, in the broadest sense and also in terms of access to services. Gender equality is a concept that comes from an ethical concept of equality used to denote terms, obligations and rights between men and women. Professional practice takes place within contexts characterized by greater variations in relation to ethnicity, sexual orientation, social class and social gender as a socially and culturally defined term. Increasingly, professionals have to relate to users with diverse backgrounds and needs, and professional practice must be anchored in a "culturally sensitive" or analytical approach. There is a need for research that can stimulate such an approach and that relates to the tension between equality and diversity in professional practice.