In Australia, about 1 in 3 chiropractors choose not to belong to either of the two professional associations [1, 2]. This phenomenon is not representative of all health professional organisations in Australia. For instance, over 80% of physiotherapists and osteopaths are members of a professional association [3, 4]. This raises the question “Why do approximately one in three Australian chiropractors not join a professional association?”
Theoretical perspectives about joining professional associations
From a sociological perspective, motives for professional association membership can be interpreted in terms of Weber’s general categories of social action . Here, people join on instrumental-rational motives i.e. organize themselves to assert their personal interests, enhance their personal reputation, and gaining access to desired goods. Also, they join for rational reasons of principle of solidarity or ideological (political, ethical or religious) convictions, as well as to be emotionally associated with the community. Finally, they join because of traditional motives, i.e., parents did.
Factors linked to chiropractic association membership
Only one study could be found that explored chiropractors’ reasons to join a chiropractic association. That study asked Welsh Institute of Chiropractic Alumni about what influenced their decision to join the United Kingdom Chiropractic Association . A majority of the respondents indicated that the following ten factors were important: promotion of public awareness of chiropractic; access to professional indemnity insurance; professionalism of the association; identity of the association; positive attitude to research; workplace support and advice; access to events, courses, and seminars; continuing professional development activities; cost of membership; and addresses my area of interest.
Factors linked to non-chiropractic health professionals association membership
Given the dearth of studies examining influences on chiropractic association membership, it would be worthwhile to consider studies of other health professionals to develop a broader understanding of association membership [7,8,9,10,11]. These studies have identified both inhibitors and facilitators to joining a professional association.
In terms of inhibitors, it has been suggested that society as a whole has shifted away from belonging to large groups, since the focus in modern society tends to be on individual rather than community lives . This is reflected by health professionals increasingly placing more importance on balancing family commitments and avoiding activities that may impinge on these commitments . Other inhibitors include perceived lack of personal relevance among younger health professionals , cost of annual dues , unprecedented levels of student debt , and time constraints . Finally, the behaviour of professional associations may also be an inhibitor, as disagreement with association positions and policies , and scandals within associations , have both resulted in lower levels of membership.
Scant studies have examined facilitators of health professionals’ association membership. That said, it appears that the most important predictor involved the individual’s perception of the value of association membership . In particular, an individual’s decision to join or remain in a professional association depends on whether they perceive that the benefits outweigh the costs . Other factors that may influence health professionals’ decision to belong to professional associations include opportunities for continuing education, access to academic journals, and networking [12, 13]. Overall though, the lack of research in this area suggests that further studies are warranted to better understand health professionals’ motives for joining professional associations.
Promoting association membership during the transition from completing undergraduate training to entering employment may be especially important, as research in the general population has shown that people become increasingly less likely to join a professional organisation the longer they delay after joining the workforce [5, 14]. Consequentially, factors that may inhibit or promote membership in both future non-members and members of professions can be conveniently investigated while still at an undergraduate level.
In light of the aforementioned relatively low rate of Australian chiropractor association membership, and the potentially important transition period from student to practitioner, the purpose of this study was to identify factors that may enhance the likelihood of chiropractic students belonging to such associations. However, we were unable to identify validated survey instruments that could be used to obtain information about reasons for joining health professional associations. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to: 1) develop a survey instrument that captures information about what influences chiropractic students in joining professional association; and 2) identify factors that promote association membership among chiropractic students.