Permeable practitioners recognise uncertainties as a prompt to learn and they seek to resolve their uncertainties by engaging in a variety of activities.
The sorts of activities which can support the practitioner to resolve uncertainties include:
- Ad hoc discussions with colleagues
- Consulting textbooks and other literature
- Looking up the latest research
- Attending courses, training and education events
- Using professional social media
- Using supervision
Permeable practitioners use these activities to check, assure and when necessary to make changes which will help to resolve their practice uncertainties. So, an uncertain practitioner might check informally with colleagues to find out if others would do the same faced with the same practice demands or consult a trusted textbook to refresh understanding about an aspect of knowledge and know-how and so on. Sometimes checking is enough to provide assurance and resolve the uncertainty but in other instances it might be necessary to adjust practice in some way; for example, acquiring more knowledge and know-how by working with a more experienced colleague or attending some training.
I refer to this checking + assuring + adjusting as practitioner recalibration because it seems to me that this is much like recalibration of a scientific instrument where adjustment is only required when checking indicates the instrument is not performing as it should. I think it’s important to recognise that resolving a concern doesn’t always entail changing or developing but also includes working out what’s ok and which uncertainties can be safely tolerated.
A practitioner’s readiness for recalibration hinges on the constellation of behaviours and characteristics conceptualised as practitioner permeability; awareness, awareness-sharing, feedback-seeking, critical awareness, openness to alternatives and willingness to change. Permeable practitioners use supervision as a place for recalibration when they perceive there are conducive conditions. These conditions, such as trust, dialogue, negotiation, collaboration and so on have been highlighted by others including a 2014 paper by Martin and colleagues and more recently by Rothwell and colleagues in work commissioned by the Health and Care Professions’ Council. When these conditions are met, supervision may be a place for recalibration by offering sanctuary for awareness-sharing and meta-practice opportunities to support learning and practice adjustments.
Further reading and resources
To find the possible further reading mentioned in this blog and activities for exploring the idea of resolving practice uncertainties go to Ideas and Resources