Developing Expertise in Rehabilitation Professional Practice

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Expert picture.jpg

Expertise is defined as the ability to perform at an excellent level in a specific task or field. Individuals who attain this status are referred to as experts, which means individuals whose performance is considered to be the best in their field[1][2].

Components of Expertise[edit | edit source]

The topic of expertise is quite complex and has been studied by researchers in various fields. There are five generalizations, or components that can be made about its nature[3][4][5]:

  1. Competence: skills and competences develop continuously with experience in a certain field. It's important to remember that people become more knowledgeable as they gain experience in a specific field.
  2. Contextual specific: It is crucial to understand that expertise in any given field is country and culturally specific.
  3. Identification of gap and problem perception: Experts have potential to identify crucial patterns on a broader scale, they possess the skill of recognizing significant patterns on a large scale.
  4. Process of acquiring and developing knowledge: It is also necessary to understand that experts possess a wealth of knowledge in a certain field, that was tested and confirmed throughout their professional practice.
  5. Problem solving: Experts develop sharp recognition and representation skills in order to be a more efficient problem-solver in a certain area.

Difference between Professional Development, Carrier guidance and Expertise[edit | edit source]

It would be helpful to have a clearer understanding of the distinctions between professional development, career guidance, and expertise.

Professional development entails improving your abilities and gaining new experiences to enhance your performance in your current position and within your organization. This can involve building connections, on job training, and acquiring technical knowledge. Conversely, career guidance helps you identify your preferred career paths, plan how to pursue them, and understand what it takes to succeed. Expertise, however, refers to the understanding and skills acquired through learning, training, and practical experience[6].

How do you develop expertise in rehabilitation professional practice?[edit | edit source]

To be a rehabilitation professional requires to have the necessary qualifications and knowledge, typically obtained through degrees or certificates in rehabilitation field. However, to become an expert brings a deeper diving into a particular field to better serve the population, and this requires a combination of personal motivation, personal talent, cultural and environmental elements. Literature shows that developing expertise in a certain field of practice involves various strategies that are personal, but also contextual, and this is an ongoing contextualized and individualized experience.[7][8][9].

To develop professional expertise in rehabilitation, it is important to recognize that it is:

  • A learning journey that reflects on own practice: In healthcare, reflective practice involves reflecting on your own practice while engaging in continuous learning [10][11].
  • Critical analysis and thinking of own practice, that involves questioning, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, and judging your professional actions [12].
  • Having curiosity to learn,
  • It's important to understand your motivation for pursuing expertise in a specific healthcare field before embarking on this journey.
  • and consider socio-cultural construct: Culture shapes beliefs and behaviors, guiding individuals towards what's right or wrong. Healthcare providers must understand patients' cultural backgrounds to provide quality care. Social support, optimism, and a sense of control are vital for maintaining good health [13][14].

Global perspective about rehabilitation professional expertise[edit | edit source]

According to WHO, there is a growing global demand for professionals in the rehabilitation sector [15]. As this demand increases, there is a need to increase the number of rehabilitation professionals to ensure that the population's needs are met. However, it's also important to consider the need for rehabilitation experts who understand the specific needs of their context and can effectively address them[15].

The rehabilitation profession comprises a variety of healthcare professionals, namely physiotherapists (PT), occupational therapists (OT), speech and language therapists (SLT), audiologists, prosthetists & orthotists (P&O), rehabilitation nurses, clinical psychologists, physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors, - as explicitly stated by various authors[15][16].

Globally, expertise in the rehabilitation field demands a comprehensive understanding of cultural aspects such as values, beliefs, norms, and practices [17]. Different countries may have varying definitions of a rehabilitation expert, but certain factors remain consistent, including competence, professional development, experience and practices[18].

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Eraut, M. Expert and expertise: meanings and perspectives. Learning in Health and Social Care,2005; 4: 173-179.
  2. Klein. E, Virtual Mentor Ethics Journal of the American Medical Association February 2006; 8(2):69-70.
  3. Chi, M.T.H., Glaser, R., & Farr, M.J. (Eds.). The Nature of Expertise (1st ed.). Psychology Press.1988.
  4. Fox, S., & Leake, D. B. Introspective reasoning for index refinement in case-based reasoning. Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 2001; 13(1): 63–88.
  5. Leighton, J. P., & Sternberg, R. J. Reasoning and problem solving. In A. F. Healy & R. W. Proctor (Eds.), Handbook of psychology: Experimental psychology, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.2003; 4, 623–648.
  6. Cornford, I. and Athanasou, J. "Developing expertise through training", Industrial and Commercial Training, 1995;27(2),10-18.
  7. Bourne LE Jr, Kole JA, Healy AF. Expertise: defined, described, explained. Front Psychol. March 2014; 5:186.
  8. Wallin, A., Nokelainen, P. & Mikkonen, S. How experienced professionals develop their expertise in work-based higher education: a literature review. High Educ. 2019; 77:359–378.
  9. Ericsson, K. (Ed.). Development of Professional Expertise: Toward Measurement of Expert Performance and Design of Optimal Learning Environments. Cambridge University Press,2009.
  10. Fragkos KC. Reflective practice in healthcare education: an umbrella review. Education Sciences. 2016 Aug 11;6(3):27.
  11. Taylor B. Reflective practice for healthcare professionals: a practical guide. McGraw-Hill Education (UK); 2010 May 1.
  12. Papathanasiou IV, Kleisiaris CF, Fradelos EC, Kakou K, Kourkouta L. Critical thinking: the development of an essential skill for nursing students. Acta Inform Med. 2014 Aug;22(4):283-6.
  13. Furber A, Duncan S, Smith SD, Crapper M. The health and safety implications of socio-cultural context for community construction projects in developing countries. Construction Management and Economics. 2012 Oct 1;30(10):857-67.
  14. Abubakar A, Van Baar A, Fischer R, Bomu G, Gona JK, Newton CR. Socio-cultural determinants of health-seeking behaviour on the Kenyan coast: a qualitative study. PloS one. 2013 Nov 18;8(11):e71998.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Rehabilitation Competency Framework, World Health Organization; 2020.
  16. Mak, S., Hunt, M., Boruff, J., Zaccagnini, M., & Thomas, A. Exploring professional identity in rehabilitation professions: a scoping review. Advances in health sciences education: theory and practice, 2022;27(3):793–815.
  17. Martin, S., & Wagenfeld, A. Global Perspectives on Occupational Therapy Practice and Education. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy,2019; 7(3): 1-4. Available from:
  18. Gail M. J. et al. Expert Practice in Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy,2000; 80(1):28–43.