|Title||A Qualitative Study of UK Community Health Practitioners’ Perceptions of their Personal and Professional Development after Training for and Practicing as Health & Social Care Innovators|
This qualitative study explores the personal and professional journey of a group of healthcare professionals who undertook higher education (HE) or training in social innovation and put that learning into practice. Social Innovation is a relatively new concept in the field of health, and research is, in the main, confined to the structural and organisational aspects of innovation. Studies looking at the personal development of the innovators are rare, and no study has researched first-hand the experiences of new healthcare innovators as they learn how to set up and manage their own projects. Twenty-six community health professionals were interviewed. The participants were selected because they had either attended a HE programme or independent training on social innovation and were interested in setting up their own innovation in their clinical practice setting.
Individual interviews were achieved using Skype which proved to be an effective data collection method and allowed for a geographically dispersed sample. Thematic Analysis allowed several key themes to emerge from the data: the importance of personal resilience; increase in confidence; how levels of self- efficacy played a key role in their success; learning to shift from working in glorious isolation to seeking help from influential others. Improved technical skills and becoming better organised were also powerful factors. However, one finding proved pivotal to their success - finding themselves. The majority talked of discovering the ‘real me’ as a result of their learning, mixing with likeminded others and the first-hand experience of the struggle of developing a project, often in the face of opposition. For many, the positive changes transferred to their personal lives.
The findings suggest that many community health professionals have an inner drive to improve their clinical practice, but do not always know the best way to do this without formalised help. The educational input enhanced their learning and also impacted on their personal development enabling them to proceed with their innovations.
These findings are supported by research in the broader field of industry indicating that, whatever the context, there is a commonality of spirit, an ability to persevere and overcome adversity among innovators. These findings are therefore generalisable to others contemplating innovative projects in health and social care settings. In addition, the health and social professional curricula will benefit from including the subject of innovation within their educational programmes and subsequently staff and managers who work with innovative practitioners will also benefit from working with innovative professionals.