Development of professional identity and professional socialisation in allied health students: A scoping review


  • Robynne Snell Curtin University
  • Susan Fyfe Curtin University
  • Georgina Fyfe Curtin University
  • Diana Blackwood Curtin University
  • Catherine Itsiopoulos Murdoch University



scoping review, professional identity, professional socialisation, professionalisation, allied health occupations, allied health students


Introduction: Reports on the development of professional identity and socialisation in the healthcare professions are mainly from medicine and nursing, although the body of work from other health professions is increasing. This scoping review investigates what is known about the development of professional identity by students from nine allied health professions and what they experience when developing a professional identity. 

Methods: Reviewers independently searched five databases: CINAHL Plus, Informit, Ovid Medline, Proquest and Scopus, using either terms from text mining six key articles known to the authors or from the keywords: allied health occupation, student, professional identity, professional socialisation, professionalisation and professional role. 

Results: Ninety-six articles met inclusion criteria from 3 662 records. Over half the articles were published after 2010 and reported studies using qualitative methods with small numbers of participants. Study participants were mainly from the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia, and their professions were social work, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. There was no consensus for terminology of professional identity, and related terms were used interchangeably. Theoretical frameworks varied, with situated learning theory and application of standards or frameworks to meet accreditation or professional organisation requirements being most common. Students reported that early introduction to their profession was beneficial to developing a professional identity.

Conclusions: While interest in the development of professional identity has increased, findings indicate that further research, including longitudinal studies, would deepen our understanding of the process of socialisation at different stages and similarities between the professions. This is needed for curriculum development, graduate employability strategies and in order to best prepare students for their future practice.




Author Biographies

Robynne Snell, Curtin University

PhD Candidate, AdvAPD

School of Public Health

Faculty of Health Sciences

Susan Fyfe, Curtin University

Adjunct Professor

Faculty of Health Sciences

Georgina Fyfe, Curtin University

Associate Professor

Dean, Learning & Teaching

Faculty of Health Sciences

Diana Blackwood, Curtin University

Faculty Librarian

Faculty of Health Sciences & Vice Chancellory

Catherine Itsiopoulos, Murdoch University

Pro Vice Chancellor & Executive Dean 

College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education




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How to Cite

Snell, R., Fyfe, S., Fyfe, G., Blackwood, D., & Itsiopoulos, C. (2020). Development of professional identity and professional socialisation in allied health students: A scoping review. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 21(1), 29–56.