The health promotion (HP) community advocates for capacity building, quality assurance and political awareness of HP. Professional identity (PI) is of great relevance to these goals as persons who strongly identify with their profession better adopt their professional role, raising the quality, competence and common values within a professional group. However, investigations on the HP workforce are missing. In order to investigate PI formation in HP professionals, a longitudinal study was conducted with two student cohorts of a Swiss HP and prevention undergraduate program. Using a qualitative approach, focus groups were conducted at the beginning and end of the undergraduate program. Data were transcribed verbatim and condensed using thematic analysis. The results highlight the complexity of the HP's professional profile. While students experienced difficulties to capture the profile at the beginning of the program, at the end they developed an understanding of it. The practical experience within work placements helped students to grasp the profile and specify their future professional role. Several behavioral, cognitive and motivational aspects were identified that influence HP students' PI formation and can be fostered. For instance, universities can commit to public relations for HP practitioners and support the PI formation throughout the study program.
Keywords: focus groups; health promotion; professional identity; undergraduate students; workforce.