Physical Therapy Publications

The Development of Expertise in Paediatric Rehabilitation Therapists: The Roles of Motivation, Openness to Experience, and Types of Caseload Experience

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Australian Occupational Therapy Journal





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Background/aim: A transdisciplinary approach was taken to study the nature of variables associated with the development of expertise in 71 paediatric rehabilitation therapists (i.e. physical, occupational, speech, behavioural, and recreational therapists).

Methods: Six groups of practising therapists were identified based on expertise status (novice, intermediate, and expert, as determined by a multifaceted assessment battery), and their level of clinical experience (10 years or less, more than 10 years). Scores for these six therapist groups were examined on three variables generally considered to be associated with the development of expertise — motivation, openness to experience (as defined by the critical-thinking dispositions of truth-seeking, open-mindedness, and cognitive maturity), and features of their clinical caseload experience (i.e. breadth of experience as measured by number of different client age groups worked with, the complexity of clients' needs, and experience in delivering services to adolescents, school-age children, preschoolers, and infants).

Results: Low-experience experts ('young stars') had the highest motivation, truth-seeking, and open-mindedness scores of all groups, the highest percentage of clients with complex service needs, and were more likely to work with adolescents.

Conclusions: The major differences between therapists who attain expertise quickly versus those who remain novices after many years of experience appear to be motivation and complexity of work experiences. Implications for supporting the development of expertise in practising therapists are discussed.

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