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Athletic Trainer's Beliefs Regarding Professionalism.

CONTEXT: Limited research exists regarding the perceptions of professionalism of athletic trainers.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of athletic trainers on their perceptions of professionalism.

DESIGN: Qualitative Study.

SETTING: Participants were athletic trainers who completed a semi-structured interview protocol via audio-only recording conferencing.

PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS: 17 participants (age 33±8 years, range 25-56 years) who were certified athletic trainers with an average of 10 years of experience (SD: ±8, Range 1-33 years) participated in the interview.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Participants self-identified their interest to participate in a follow-up interview recruitment located within a survey. Interviews occurred until saturation was met and also included a variety of participants. Demographic information was gathered from the survey for each participant. All transcripts were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and were coded using a 3-person coding team following the consensual qualitative research protocol. Member checking, auditing, and triangulation established trustworthiness and credibility in the data analysis process.

RESULTS: A total of four domains with supporting categories were identified. Athletic trainers spoke of the employee environment that affected perceptions of what was determined to be professional specifically with various settings or situations. Participants shared their personal determination of outward appearance and expression when differentiating what was deemed professional, including references to cleanliness, judgment of self-expression, and implicit bias. Finally, whether intentional or unintentional, participants made comments that demonstrated a bias towards sexes or race and ethnicity when determining outward appearance appropriateness. Participants noted various cultural awareness situations including progression of perceptions over time, external pressure, and internal dialogue. Participants shared discourse of an internal struggle of what is right and wrong within their responses. Participants discussed professionalism based on provider's conduct, mainly in terms of communication and patient care. Participants shared that communication occurring through both verbal and non-verbal means is vital to the perceptions of professionalism for athletic trainers.

CONCLUSION: Current views of professionalism within athletic training are shaped from various lived experiences. With the movement towards athletic training becoming more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, antiquated professionalism ideals need to shift for a better work environment for all.

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