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© Borgis - New Medicine 3/2009, s. 65-69
*Timea Tóth
The Value Priorities of Young Adults who Choose to Pursue a Paramedical Career
Semmelweis University Faculty of Health Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
Head: Dr Judit Mészáros
Aim.The aim was to identify the value system and value priorities of young adults choosing a paramedical profession, because so much depends on how individuals usually relate to general and human values, especially in the case of individuals choosing a caring profession.
Material and Methods. We investigated first year students at Semmelweis University Faculty of Health Sciences between 2003 and 2007 using a two-sample value assessment. We used the Values Work Inventory adapted from Donald Super, and after processing the data we illustrated the value preferences of the two samples.
Results. The results of the Super-test suggest that altruism is preferred, self-assertion and human relations are highly valued, material essentials are not dominant, and control as a value is not of interest. On the other hand, intellectual stimulation and creativity are overshadowed by the other attributes. This does not really sound promising, while it is also surprising that the priority of the need for safety also seems to have weakened.
Conclusions. The most significant conclusion was that at the group level, the suitability of the questioned students for their chosen professions was certified by their career choice motivation, value system and relations to human values.
The aim of the assessment performed among students is the examination of starting value priorities of young people selecting careers in caring professions.
The unlimited use of the notion of value has become quite commonplace; investigations and assessments of values have become a "scientific fashion”. Today we hear a great deal about a crisis of values, a value vacuum, rearrangement of values and confusion about them, both in social and global terms. Naturally, these contemporary phenomena and anomies shape individual value systems too, for example activating them and changing them [1, 2]. The opposition of consumer behaviour and a value vacuum in morals, the tension between the value of a holistic approach to health and society´s attitude to health in Hungary as well as between the preference of material or post-material values all indirectly affect young adults aged between 18 and 26. This is a group about to cope with the dilemmas of career choice, "bearing” their own value consciousness, and who distinguish pro-social behaviour related human values with crucial attention and wanting to work in the field of prevention, nursing, healing, rehabilitation or psycho-education, in order to act as a real "homo medicus” in his or her profession. One of the main goals of a caring profession is to help individuals – that is, patients, clients, anyone in need – find and reaffirm their problem-solving skills. It is obvious that such a contribution to others´ lives can only be really effective when the caring professional develops real professional and human self-knowledge, value consciousness and abilities in preparing for his or her career [3].
Briefly, the human caring paramedical professions which we are interested in each have their own specific profiles regarding professional identification, but the professionals have a common aim of helping individuals fulfil their life. In this way, the personality of paramedical professionals is a ´work tool´, and value attitude is an organic part of this work tool [4].
Material and Methods
The surveyed sample is comprised of two groups: the first, earlier sample consisted of 105 persons selected at random from the day-course student population of what was then the Healthcare College Faculty, in the academic year 2003/2004. In this target group data were gathered from 75 nurse students, 16 health visitor students and 14 dietician students, which added together – giving the whole volume of the first sample – constitutes 42.75% of the entire student population.
The second, later sample was selected at random from full-time students of Nursing and Patient Care at the Faculty of Health Sciences, from whom a total of 150 persons returned a questionnaire suitable for evaluation in the 2007/2008 academic year, this number representing 57.5% of all students.
Members of our target group were aged between 18 and 26, which is a crucial period regarding the strengthening of value consciousness. Developmental psychology and andragogy consider this period as young adulthood which, importantly, has its typical developmental psychological characteristics and which is a source of certain possible achievements and crises. The condition of the value images, impressions and attitudes of young adults who have just started higher education studies often justifies the andragogical law according to which in the individual´s socialisation there is a landmark, a "change of an era” around the age of 18-20. This change can cause a temporary value crisis, a value vacuum in this period of finding oneself and self exploration. Although in this period the individual usually encounters many difficulties, it is a very useful step in that individual´s development inasmuch as it demands facing him or herself [5].
D. E. Super [6] emphasises in his theory that the individual is an active party in the shaping of his or her life cycle and career by continuously making decisions. This activity is a specific form of self-expression. Through this, Super also surveys the characteristics of the classical career-aptitude theory together with a developmental psychological perspective, adding that the process of identifying with one´s professional role plays a crucial role in shaping one´s professional identity. Therefore, Super considers professional development and career identification as a dynamic interaction between the individual and his or her environment. Personality often develops in parallel with professional development. According to Super, career aptitude is multi-potential as personalities differ from each other in fields of interest, abilities and motivations. That is, individuals´ characteristics make them suitable for more than one profession. In the same way, each profession requires a special constellation of abilities, interests and personality characteristics, thus having its own system of requirements and expectations. As a consequence of this the individual has a certain tolerance limit in regards to his or her suitability and the availability of a career for him or her. Super described this life phase theory of his in terms of a spectacular career orbit which he named the "career rainbow” [7].
In the test the respondents were asked to indicate, on a scale of 1-5, how important they considered each of the listed statements to be. Students had 30 minutes to complete the forced choice tests on the spot, and had to return them immediately. Data were recorded and processed with the help of Microsoft Office and SPSS.
By processing the data thus obtained it was possible to sketch the value rankings of individuals and groups, and the relationship of the values with each other. In other words, the questionnaire measured how – with what weight and in which order – the values regulate the behaviour of the respondent. Between 1962 and 1969 Donald E. Super, quoted above, developed his method which uses factor analysis and, in its final version, differentiates between 15 value categories and takes the form of a forced-choice test containing 45 items. It is typical of Super´s approach that his test highlights the dual nature of the values, linking the subjective and objective factors in the career-related value choice. The 15 value categories are as follows[8]:
1. Intellectual stimulation
This factor is based on intellectual challenges, thinking, and intellectual motivation, in other words how keen the individual is to perform the tasks.
2. Altruism
The values in this category indicate the intention and willingness to provide social assistance; that is, the extent to which the individual is capable of becoming involved in the life and problems of others, and their attempts to succeed in life.
3. Economic return
Material values serve to gauge the importance of subsistence, the standard of living and assurance of a trouble-free life.
4. Variety
The values in this category measure the need for differentiation and in the ranking of work values the degree of task-orientation as opposed to pleasure-orientation.
5. Independence
This factor encompasses autonomy, independent conduct, and the degree of control maintained over actions and activities.
6. Prestige
This represents the standing of the job and the respect that it confers; however, in many cases prestige cannot be differentiated sharply from status and certain ambitions to obtain power.
7. Aesthetics
This dimension gauges the desire for a more attractive physical working environment, as well as to create more abstract "works of art.”
8. Associates
This category deals with the importance, to the individual, of the social setting and micro-environment, in which positive and constructive human relationships are defining.
9. Surroundings
This factor represents the quality constituents of the physical environment, including the material as well as the aesthetic environment.
10. Way of life
According to Super, in the age-group surveyed the unique characteristics of this value factor – the individual´s lifestyle aspirations, perception of role, etc. – surveyed in the age group are not yet evolved in the individual, but are certainly reflected at the level of plans and desires in the value system.
11. Supervisory relations
In this value category the order and justice of supervisory relations is the value to be studied, and the yardstick by which they are judged in a system.
12. Achievement
The characteristics of the individual´s performance can be listed in this category.
13. Management
This value category relates to the coordination of work performed by others, and the ability to lead groups.
14. Creativity
The individual´s innovative endeavours, receptiveness to ideas, and degree of originality fall into this category.
15. Security
This group of concepts encompasses the sense of stability arising from the value of work, which constitutes a form of personal „insurance” that the individual will always be capable of performing the job to the required standard.
Mapping the career choice motivations [9] in the two samples has brought the following results:
Fig. 1. Career Choice Motivation.
Data show that in 2003 humanistic factors were 4% more dominant than in 2007, while in 2007 attraction towards Biology has become a key factor for more people than in 2003. One possible explanation for this is the fact that the earlier sample group was made up of mainly nursing students, while later – owing to the fact that students could apply for the same basic programme independently of what specialist programme they would choose afterwards – not only future nurses, but also would-be advising psycho-educative professionals (e.g. dieticians) were included in the survey.
Furthermore, family example had a greater influence in 2003, while the number of uncertain persons was much higher in 2007. In this latter group a high percentage (5-8%) of people chose the Faculty of Health Sciences not as their first choice, so they regard their status as temporary. That is, these students were in the Health Sciences Faculty due to the circumstances, and when possible, they would move to their preferred faculty or speciality.
Table I gives the results from the Super test. The average score of the S1 intellectual stimulation factor positioned it midway in the ranking, and the distribution of the scores in this category is not conspicuously high. Very few respondents gave the minimum or maximum score for this factor, and therefore the students probably do not regard intellectual stimulation as among the most important values.
Table 1. Statistical results of Super test n=255.
Minimum scoreMaximum scoreAverigeDistribution
SUPER 14 (1)15 (9)3.491,12
SUPER 26 (1)15 (109)4.480,69
SUPER 33 (1)15 (19)3.791,14
SUPER 44 (1)15 (36)3.990,92
SUPER 56 (3)15 (9)3.641,04
SUPER 63 (1)15 (22)3.841,04
SUPER 73 (1)15 (12)3.501,37
SUPER 86 (4)15 (72)4.2500,89
SUPER 95 (3)15 (33)4.0300,97
SUPER 105 (1)15 (67)4.3000,9
SUPER 115 (3)15 (21)3.741,02
SUPER 126 (3)15 (11)3.681,04
SUPER 133 (5)15 (5)2.871,1
SUPER 143 (1)15 (16)3.541,01
SUPER 157 (2)15 (63)4.2800,83
S2 altruism had the highest average score, and the lowest distribution. The students regard this value category as the most important, a fact that is evidenced not only by the average score achieved, but also by the high number of maximum scores given.
The role of S3 economic return does not appear dominant, a fact which is also reflected in the relatively low number of respondents who gave a maximum score for values in this category.
The distribution of scores given for S4 variety is not particularly high; however, many respondents gave the maximum score for this value. The average score is relatively high, and in terms of importance the variety category falls into the middle third of values, in the judgement of the respondents.
The scores given for S5 independence show that the students have little appreciation for the value of independence. A low number of maximum scores were given for this factor, and the distribution does not differ greatly from the average. Based on the results of the survey, independence is not the value that students primarily seek in their future profession.
S6 prestige does not stand out particularly from among the other value factors, with both distribution and the average score close to the average.
The surveyed target group was certainly divided in its opinions regarding S7 aesthetics, as this factor displayed the greatest distribution. However, very few gave a maximum score for this value, and the average score also placed it in the bottom third of the ranking.
The S8 associates dimension holds a prominent position among the value priorities of the young adults surveyed, which is reflected in the high average score. The most important interpersonal value is regarded as highly important by the students, a fact which is also reflected in the high proportion of those who gave it the maximum score.
Based on its average score, S9 surroundings falls into the top third. The distribution can be regarded as average, and none of the other data for this category stand out from among those of the other values.
The high average score of the S10 way of life value category is evident, and it can naturally be assumed that among this generation, while altruism remains important, the value of self-fulfilment is also a dominant factor in the students´ value system.
In terms of importance, S11 supervisory relations comes midway in the ranking, and this is reflected in its average score.
S12 achievement is not among the most preferred work values, a fact that is evidenced by the unremarkable average score and distribution.
The results for the S13 management dimension clearly show, in the combined sample, that among all the factors this received the lowest percentage of maximum scores. Consequently, the average score is also the lowest.
Based on the results for the S14 creativity value factor, the respondents were less than enthusiastic about their creative abilities, assigning them the same importance as aesthetics in their value system.
The scores given for the S15 security factor have a low distribution, but a relatively high average score. Security, therefore, is particularly important to the students, a conclusion that is also borne out by an examination of the lowest score it received, which was far higher than the lowest scores given for other factors.
3) The Super test is certainly suitable for establishing a ranking of the value factors, and comparison of the value preferences of students as recorded in the two different years:
Table 2. Ranking of Value Categories.
 sample 2003sample 2007
n=105 personsn=150 persons
1.Altruism (p 1409)Altruism (p 2018)
2.Security (p 1372)Associates (p 1929)
3.Way of Life (p 1368)Way of Life (p 1924)
4.Associates (p 1323)Security (p 1903)
5.Surroundings (p 1256)Surrondings (p 1829)
6.Variety (p 1225)Variety (p 1828)
7.Prestige (p 1193)Prestige (p 1746)
8.Supervisory Relations (p 1168)Economic Return (p 1708)
9.Achievement (1168)Supervisory Relations (p 1692)
10.Economic Return (p 1155)Independence (p 1654)
11.Independence (p 1135)Achievement (p 1649)
12.Creativity (p 1130)Aesthetics (p 1594)
13.Intellectual Stimulation (p 1091)Intellectual Stimulation (p 1581)
14.Aesthetics (p 1085)Creativity (p 1581)
15.Management (p 929)Management (p 1264)
By virtue of the results we have come to the following interpretations:
1. The most striking feature of the rankings is the fact that the same value factors occupy first and last place in the case of both samples (First: Altruism – Last: Management).
2. In their assessment of the economic return factor the respondents are partly reflecting the social reality, and partly the fact that they did not choose this profession for financial reasons.
3. The low priority accorded to prestige is clearly related to an awareness of the general lack of society´s appreciation.
4. The result of the aesthetics factor was foreseeable, since the desire to create beauty is not a primary motivational factor for those pursuing paramedical vocations.
5. Students in the 2003 and 2007 samples accorded the same importance to the way of life value. The important position of the way of life among the top three is obviously also a result of the spirit and demands of the age, since a healthy ability to assert one´s own interests is an important means of achieving career success.
6. The students do not regard management as a preferred value – obviously, one possible explanation for this could result from the age of the respondents.
7. The position of the creativity factor is surprising in view of the fact that the students, in their chosen profession – also bearing in mind the importance of the management category – will need to make and arrive at individual, independent and sometimes creative decisions and solutions.
The assessment of the value attitude of young adults aged 18-26 choosing a paramedical profession clearly shows that the value preferences of these students meet both the social expectations placed on paramedical professionals and the realities. Interpersonal values (cooperation, helpfulness, social relations, empathy, etc.) proved to be accorded greater importance than intrapersonal values (independence, self-assertion, creativity, prestige, etc.). The phenomena of value confusion and loss of values present on many levels of society cannot be detected in the investigated young adults´ value attitude and value system. Moreover, it can be firmly established that, without doubt, an altruistic attitude determines the conduct of young adults choosing a paramedical profession.
As regards continued studies, two directions seem to be relevant. On the one hand, a prospective and long-term study could be made if, to obtain useful feedback, the dynamics and change of the students´ value system and value preferences during their whole training period are followed up in a longitudinal manner, and, as the last step of the research algorithm, first year students´ value attitudes are compared to the output stage. On the other hand, it would be worth extending the research into an exciting and illuminating comparative study in which we could draw the value profiles of students with various professional expectations (preparing to pursue professions in business, or technology, or the arts, etc.). That is, the value investigation could join the investigation of the youth, transilluminating a whole generation to gain knowledge about the reflections of a slice of the social reality of the now and here, inasmuch as value concepts and value research must occupy a worthy and central position at the borderland of behavioural sciences [10].
Adres do korespondencji:
1. Varga K.(ed.) Értékek fénykörében. Akadémiai, Budapest, 2003. 2. Pikó B. Érték és magatartás. Társadalom-lélektani értékelemzés. http://www.shp.hu/hpc/userfiles/knye/2004_piko.rtf 03. 2009. 3. Tóth T. Értékek dominanciája a pályaválasztásban. Nővér 2008; 21 (2): 10-18. 4. Bagdy E. Az emberi kapcsolatok dinamikája. In: Tanulmányok a vallás és lélektan határterületéről. Jelenits I..,Tomcsányi T.(ed.) SE –TF Mentálhigiénés Tanszék, Párbeszéd Alapítvány. Budapest, 2003. 5. Puskás I., Vajda Zs.(ed.) Felsőoktatásban tanuló fiatalok problémái, útkeresése. FETA könyvek 2. Budapest, 2007. 6. D. E. Super, Charles M. Super. Life Roles, Values, and Careers: International Findings of the Work Importance Study. John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. 1995. 7. E. H. Erikson. Az emberi életciklus. In: Bernáth L., Solymosi K. (ed.) Fejlődéslélektan. Olvasókönyv. Tertia, Budapest, 1997. 8. Duró L., Kékes Szabó M., Pigler L. Nevelés és értékkutatás. BBS-INFO, Budapest, 2005. 9. Mészáros J, Tóth T, Várkonyi Á. Érték és hivatás: az értéktudat vizsgálata az első éves diplomás ápoló hallgatók körében .Orvosképzés 2002; 77 (2): 147-150. 10. M. Rokeach. The nature of human values. Free Press New York, 1973.

New Medicine 3/2009
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