Interprofessional education (IPE) involves students from different professions being brought together to learn about each other's profession. Several models of IPE exist, and central to the debate around which of these models is the most appropriate is the question of the stage of training in which to implement these programmes. Currently, however, there is no consensus on this question. Debate so far has revolved around the strength of professional identities, or lack thereof, amongst pre-qualifying students and how this may influence interprofessional learning. The potential role of professional identity in IPE seems to be unresolved. The present article adds to this debate by investigating the level of professional identity when students commence their professional studies; the differences in the level of professional identity between students from a range of professions; and the factors which may affect the initial levels of professional identification. Data were collected by questionnaire from the first-year cohort of Health and Social Care (H&SC) students embarking on IPE as an embedded part of an undergraduate pre-qualifying programme. A sample of 1254 students was achieved. Professional identity was measured using an adaptation of a previously described scale. Our findings suggest that a degree of professional identity is evident before students begin their training. Differences in strength of initial professional identity were observed across professions, with physiotherapy students displaying the highest levels of professional identification. To test for associations between professional identity and a number of independent variables, an ordinary least squares (OLS) regression model was estimated. The variables that were found to be significant predictors of baseline professional identity were: gender; profession; previous work experience in H&SC environments; understanding of team working; knowledge of profession; and cognitive flexibility. Some explanations for these findings are presented and the implications are discussed
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