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Professionals under pressure: contextual influences on learning and development of radiographers in England

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The role of radiographers has changed significantly in the last 20 years, as the demand for radiography services has increased markedly and the work of radiographers has become more complex. This article is framed within a narrative, drawn from previous work, of how radiography has become a ‘profession under pressure’ and a contemporary analysis of how the context in which radiographers are working influences their opportunities for learning. Examples of the interaction between learning and contextual factors are drawn primarily from discussions that took place during two focus groups with radiographers. The analysis, using a framework developed by Eraut et al. (2004 ), indicates that contextual factors, such as the allocation and structuring of work, relationships at work, and participation and expectations at work, are significantly influencing possibilities for learning in the workplace. This suggests that current proposals to change the way in which radiographers’ work is structured may enhance their opportunities for learning. Similarly, changing patterns of relationships at work, based around skill mix proposals and changing career structures, could also increase radiographers’ opportunities for learning, both from other radiographers and from the other healthcare staff with whom they inter-relate. Expectations about training and development from staff and their supervisors, often enshrined in departmental or institutional policies, can also be seen as influencing both the possibilities for learning and attitudes towards continuing learning. The article concludes by emphasizing that critical learning factors, such as the provision of appropriate mechanisms for feedback and support, need to be addressed if the possibilities for enhanced learning afforded by contextual changes are to be realized in practice.
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Keywords: continuing professional development; learning context; radiographers; skill mix

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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