Original Research - Special Collection: Mental Health and COVID-19

Illuminating the transitional habitus of the early career health science professional as postgraduate supervisor

Jeanette E. Maritz
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 26 | a1660 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v26i0.1660 | © 2021 Jeanette E. Maritz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 April 2021 | Published: 19 October 2021

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Jeanette E. Maritz, Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Background: Early career health science professionals often find themselves in a transitional space when moving from a health science professional role to academia. The role of a postgraduate supervisor is especially troublesome. Transitional spaces often bring uncertainty and perceived or real threats, fear, worry, anxiety and stress. Without support, the result could be detrimental to the mental health of the early career as postgraduate supervisors, thereby impacting their professional identity formation.

Aim: To understand the underlying elements that shaped the early career health science professional as postgraduate supervisors’ habitus and how these features play out in their postgraduate supervision practice.

Setting: The research study was carried out at an Open and Distance e-Learning University (ODeL) and a residential university.

Methods: Visual elicitation methods in the form of seven drawings were used as data. Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and hexis were used as a theoretical lens, and structural analysis with analytical memoing was used to interrogate the drawings.

Results: Early career health science professional as postgraduate supervisors’ bodily habitus presented as fragmented or yet to be formed along with other entanglements, such as emotions, language, power and material arrangements.

Conclusion: These features enable policymakers, employee assistance practitioners, educational developers and experienced academics to consider the changes and structural forces that need to be addressed to support early career health science professional as postgraduate supervisors.

Contribution: A creative means of exploring the inner world of the early career health science professional as postgraduate supervisors is undertaken. In doing so, the research article potentially illuminates what has up to now been ‘unsaid’.


development; habitus; identity; professional; postgraduate; transitional; supervisor; visual elicitation


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