Understanding professional identity in occupational therapy: A scoping review

Kim Walder, Michelle Bissett, Matthew Molineux, Gail Whiteford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: A strong professional identity helps occupational therapists maintain professional values and thrive when facing work-related challenges and opportunities including generic, blurred or emerging roles, funding pressures and a push for outcome evidence. A scoping review will build understanding of professional identity and how to maintain it in such circumstances. Objectives: To scope what is currently understood of professional identity in occupational therapy and factors which influence ability to maintain this and adapt in challenging work environments. Methods: Using Arksey and O’Malley’s scoping review framework three databases were searched using the terms ‘occupational therap*’ and ‘professional identity’. Data extraction and thematic analysis highlighted the extent and nature of current literature and mapped key concepts. Results: 89 papers were included. Professional identity was revealed as a multidimensional construction. Four themes emerged: developing a shared ontology, embracing the culture, enacting occupational therapy, and believing in occupational therapy. Factors which influenced development and maintenance of professional identity included occupation-centred practice, ontological reflexivity, linking theory to practice and professional socialization. Conclusions and significance: The enhanced understanding of professional identity and factors which preserve or enhance it can help the profession identify how to position itself to remain resilient and adaptive in an ever-changing environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalScandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 07 Oct 2021


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