Background: Physiotherapy identity in the general public is on the edge as the profession is not clearly differentiated from related health care professions, which in turn may constitute a barrier to seeking physiotherapy services.
Aim: This study assessed awareness, knowledge and perception of professional identity of physiotherapy among rural dwellers in Nigeria.
Materials and Methods: A door-to-door cross-sectional survey was used to recruit 386 residents from three rural communities in Ife North Local Government Area, South West, Nigeria. A self-developed questionnaire from similar studies, and tested for content validity was used as the survey instrument. Data were also obtained on socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents. Data obtained were summarized using mean, frequency, standard deviation and percentiles. Inferential statistics of Chi square was also used. Alpha level was set at α=0.05.
Results: Only 16.8% of the respondents were aware of physiotherapy as a profession and it was likened mostly to masseurs (60%) and medical doctors (30.8%). About 67% of the respondents accorded physiotherapy similar status as medicine and dentistry. Physiotherapy was ranked 6th and 7th according to social standing and level of income relative to 11 selected professions. Another 46.1% of the respondents who were aware of physiotherapy had fair knowledge about indications for physiotherapy. There was significant association between knowledge about physiotherapy and gender (p=0.006); and perception of physiotherapy and age (p=0.027).
Conclusion: There was low awareness of physiotherapy as a health profession with its identity often mistaken for that of masseurs or medical doctors among Nigerian rural dwellers. Physiotherapy was mostly accorded a physician or dentist status but rated just above average on social standing and level of income related to some selected professions. Most of those who were aware of physiotherapy, had fair knowledge about indications for physiotherapy.
Key words: Professional Identity, Physiotherapy, Social Identity Theory, Nigeria.
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