An investigation of the professional relationship between somatologists and medical professionals practicing non-invasive aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine in eThekwini
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Background Internationally medical professionals have become increasingly aware of services that somatologists offer as adjunctive interventions. These include pre-surgery preparative and post-surgery maintenance treatments to enhance client recovery time and experience. This practice has led to the increasing utilisation of aestheticians/somatologists in medical practices internationally. In turn, the demand for aesthetic procedures has sparked great interest amongst medical professionals, more specifically dermatologists. Conversely, within the South African context, specifically KwaZulu-Natal, Vosloo (2009) revealed a poor response regarding the referral practices between medical professionals practicing non-invasive aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine, and somatologists. Thus a paucity of literature limits our understanding of the role and placement of somatology services, as well as the referral practices and their impact on the client within the medical practice. Aim: To determine whether a professional relationship currently exists between somatologists and medical professionals within the eThekwini area, in order to support the development of effective inter-professional relationships which promote higher procedure success rates and reduced client recovery time. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out in eThekwini. A total of 579 questionnaires were issued. The final sample size consisted of 172 somatologists and 21 medical professionals. The response rates were 31% and 81% respectively. A self-selection sampling technique was used. Structured questionnaires were hand-delivered to the participants’ work setting. Data was analysed using SPSS version 21.0. Descriptive statistics were used to describe quantitative data. Correlation and regression analysis were used to determine the relationship between actual dimensions of two variables at a time. Results: Currently 91% of medical professionals refer aesthetic treatments to somatologists through word-of-mouth. High levels of awareness were revealed amongst medical professionals with regards to the somatology treatments/services beneficial in a medical practice. All medical professionals felt that further information regarding the somatology curriculum was necessary. Somatologists preferred to establish a referral relationship with dermatologists. A lower referral relationship (55%) was revealed by this group. Conclusion: Currently, a collaborative relationship between dermatologists and somatologists exists within the eThekwini area. Regulation of the somatology profession is crucial in order to promote this growing relationship.