Professional doctorate level study: the experience of health professional practitioners in their first year

Nicola Petty, Vinette Cross, Graham Stew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little is known of the learning experience of practitioners undertaking a professional doctorate and the impact this has on their personal and professional lives. Greater understanding of the learning process would help inform programme design and delivery and help enhance the quality of the educational experience. This study explored the experience of practitioners completing the first year of a professional doctorate in health and social care programme at one higher education institution. A naturalistic inquiry was conducted using illuminative case study design. Nine students on a Professional Doctorate (ProfD) programme from one university in the United Kingdom took part in this study. Data was collected from two focus group interviews with first year student cohorts and from end of year evaluation questionnaires. Students were faced with knowledge that questioned their current understanding and practice which some embraced as an exciting adventure. For others this was painful and traumatic and caused them to question their continuation on the programme. Finding time to study and having high levels of support from academic staff, doctoral students and family were critical to face the challenge. As they adjusted to the situation and gained greater understanding, they became more confident in their knowledge and practice. They continued to remain somewhat uncertain of their academic progress on the programme. In the first year of the ProfD students questioned their knowledge and professional practice and this was often associated with stress and anxiety. Critical to their continuation was finding time for study and having high levels of support.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWork Based Learning e-Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Professional Doctorate study
  • health care practitioners
  • professional practice
  • learning
  • first year experience


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