The perceptions of South African chiropractors, regarding their professional identity
It is well documented that the chiropractic profession has been searching for a unified professional identity. Acknowledging this need for a professional identity relevant to the public, the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) attempted to address these concerns by conducting an international questionnaire based Identity Consultation. However, of the 3689 chiropractors who responded, only 34 were from South Africa. Therefore this study aimed to determine the perception of South African chiropractors regarding their public identity and to compare the results with those from international studies. Objectives: To determine the demographic profile of South African chiropractors, and how they perceived their professional identity relative to their own opinions, those of the public and those of medical doctors. This study investigated how South African chiropractors saw their profession relative to physiotherapy and South African chiropractor’s knowledge of the WFC Identity Consultation. Method: The study was a population based demographic study making use of a descriptive, observational, cross sectional design. It was a quantitative selfadministered questionnaire distributed to those South African chiropractors meeting the inclusion criteria (n=398). The WFC Identity Consultation questionnaire was modified and developed by the researcher to suit a South African audience after permission was obtained from the chairperson of the WFC. Results: A response rate of 30.15% was obtained. Ninety percent of South African chiropractors felt that it was important for their profession to have a clear identity. However, only 1.7% agreed that it did have a clear identity. When asked how the public viewed chiropractic, 45% felt that the public had no clear perception of the profession, with 92.5% viewing it as Complementary and The Perceptions of South African Chiropractors, Regarding Their Professional Identity iv Alternative Medicine (CAM). However, 89.2% of South African chiropractors would like the public to perceive chiropractic as mainstream medicine. When asked how chiropractic was viewed by South African chiropractors relative to physiotherapy, it was agreed that they were two separate professions each with their own identity (74.2%). The chiropractic adjustment was seen as a strong brand advantage over physiotherapy. When asked how they thought medical doctors viewed chiropractic, 73.3% felt that they did not have a clear perception of the profession, with 96.7% considering medical doctors to view chiropractic as CAM. Medical doctors’ perceptions were considered to be very important with respect to inter-professional relations. Just over half (54.2%) of South African chiropractors knew about the WFC identity, less than half of whom (47.5%) agreed with it. Conclusions: The study revealed that there was a significant difference between how South African chiropractors thought the public and medical doctors currently perceived chiropractic and how they would like to be perceived. It revealed that like their international counterparts chiropractors in South Africa are striving for a unified identity that is different to the way they are currently perceived by the health care stakeholders.