Exploring the professional identity of allied health staff within organisational structures

A/Prof Judi Porter1,2, Ms Anita Wilton1

1Eastern Health , Box Hill, Australia, 2Monash University, Notting Hill , Australia


Aim: Professional identity considers one’s self as perceived in relation to a professional and one’s membership of it.  Little is known about the professional identity of allied health staff, nor has change in professional identity that may arise from organisational change previously been reported.  Our large health network previously had three allied health workforce structures; these are currently being merged into one large allied health structure more closely aligned with service delivery.  This study aimed to understand the professional identity of allied health staff prior to this restructure.

Methods: Allied health staff were invited to participate in an online questionnaire incorporating a validated professional identity scale.  This approach enabled comparison across the three workforce structures, in bed based services (including acute and subacute care), ambulatory and community services, and mental health services (including specialist mental health services and alcohol and drug services. Descriptive and statistical analyses were undertaken.

Results: High professional identity was identified amongst allied health staff across each workforce structure (n=227 staff, 23.4% response rate).  Significant differences between bed based allied health and ambulatory and community allied health were noted across several individual statements, and in the overall score of professional identity.

Significance of the findings to allied health: Differences in professional identity exist among allied health staff belonging to different workforce structures. These need to be taken into account during organisational change. The evaluation post-restructure will inform the understanding of the impact of change in organisational structure on professional identity in allied health.


Judi holds a conjoint role as Senior Research Fellow at Eastern Health and Monash University.  In these roles she leads a range of clinical and workforce research projects.  The professional identity research presented here is the first conducted specifically within allied health professions and across workforce structures.