BACKGROUND: Understanding how professional competencies are actually enacted in clinical practice can help university programs better prepare their graduates. The study aimed to describe 1) the perceived competency level of occupational therapists holding an entry-to-practice master's degree 2) the factors perceived as impacting the enactment of competencies; and 3) the strategies used to maintain and further develop level of competency in the seven practice roles: expert in enabling occupation, communicator, collaborator, practice manager, change agent, scholarly practitioner and professional.
METHODS: Descriptive two-phase mixed methods sequential design. The quantitative phase consisted of an online survey sent to all occupational therapists holding an entry-to-practice master's degree in Quebec, Canada (n = 1196), followed by focus group discussions with a subset of participants. Analysis used descriptive statistics and the Framework Approach for content analysis of focus group data. Competencies were theoretically anchored into the Profile of Occupational Therapist Practice in Canada (an equivalent to CanMEDS framework) and we used the Theoretical Domain Framework to collect and describe perceived factors and strategies.
RESULTS: Response rate to Phase 1 was 26.5% (n = 317/1196). The communicator, collaborator and professional roles were perceived as highly solicited in practice, valued and were rated more frequently at a higher competency level as compared to the other four roles (expert, manager, change agent and scholar roles). Focus group participants (n = 16) mentioned that both individual and organisational factors influence enactment of competencies. Consulting colleagues was the preferred strategy to support the scholar role, often described as foundational for the development of expertise.
CONCLUSION: This descriptive study provides valuable information as to how the seven roles are enacted in practice. Though the scholar role is highly valued by clinicians and organizations, insufficient time is allotted to searching for evidence and reflection in practice. Strategies emerging from the results are mainly directed toward this role with an emphasis on using of peers as a source of evidence. Future studies could explore how contextual factors influence the enactment of competencies across different professions as well as how these evolve over time.