Looking for professional identity of public health workers in Poland

Original Article, Pol J Public Health 2018;128(4): 139-143

Dorota Cianciara1,2, Larysa Sugay1, Anna Rutyna1, Ewa Urban1, Maria Piotrowicz1,
Małgorzata Gajewska1, Katarzyna Lewtak1, Joanna Gotlib3

1 Department of Health Promotion and Prevention of Chronic Diseases, National Institute of Public Health – National Institute of Hygiene, Warsaw, Poland
2 School of Public Health, Centre of Postgraduate Medical Education, Warsaw, Poland
3 Division of Teaching and Outcomes of Education, Faculty of Health Sciences, Medical University of Warsaw, Poland

DOI: 10.2478/pjph-2018-0027

© 2018 Medical University of Lublin. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonComercial-No Derivs licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/)


Introduction. Public health is a specific field, which deals with an improvement of population health. It is an interdisciplinary and intersectoral activity and requires participation of various workers. All current documents and acts in public health field in Poland emphasize on the performance of specific tasks, but leave aside personal status and competencies. Many aspects were not resolved till now, e.g. which domains should be included in public health workforce, the problem of workforce enumeration: how large this group should be and what competencies should have.
Aim. The aim of the study was an attempt to indicate some professional identity components for public health workers.
Material and methods. The study was performed applying the semi-structured interviews method using a hermeneutic approach. The informants were a purposeful sample of 12 people who obtained the master’s degree in public health and already took up professional work and graduated from two universities. The basic research question was: how do interviewees perceive the public health worker?
Results. All respondents, regardless of the place of work, perceived themselves as public health workers and presumably as specialists. Attempts to describe a public health worker led to non-specific and generalized statements. There were no answers revealed to the responsibility issue for effects of work among interviews. Respondents tended to characterize public health worker competencies vertically, by domain categories, not functionally, by public health services, so the issue of key competencies importance for identity is controversial.
Conclusions. There are no strong evidences that particular workplaces or core competencies are related to professional identity of public health workers. Universities have an important role in professionalization of such workers.

Keywords: public health workforce, professional role, policy, education.

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