Athletic trainers are employed in various settings, which may utilize one of three organizational infrastructure models: 1) sport/athletic model, 2) medical model, and 3) academic model. These different settings and organizational infrastructure models may result in varying levels of organizational-professional conflict (OPC). However, how OPC may differ across infrastructure models and practice settings is not known.


Examine the prevalence of OPC among athletic trainers in various organizational infrastructures and explore athletic trainers' perceptions of OPC, including its precipitating and mitigating factors.


Sequential explanatory Mixed-Methods with equal emphasis on quantitative and qualitative components.


Collegiate and secondary school institutions

Patients or Other Participants

594 athletic trainers from collegiate and secondary schools.

Data Collection and Analysis

We conducted a national, cross-sectional survey using a validated scale to assess OPC. We then followed the quantitative survey with individual interviews. Trustworthiness was established with multiple analyst triangulation and peer debriefing.


Athletic trainers experienced low to moderate degrees of OPC with no differences across practice settings or infrastructure models. Poor communication, others' unfamiliarity with the athletic trainers' scope of practice, and lack of medical knowledge were precipitating factors for organizational-professional conflict. Organizational relationships founded on trust and respect for one another; administrative support in that athletic trainers were listened to, decisions were endorsed, and appropriate resources provided; and autonomy given to the AT were key components to preventing organizational-professional conflict.


Most athletic trainers experienced primarily low to moderate organizational-professional conflict. However, organizational-professional conflict continues to permeate professional practice, to some extent, in collegiate and secondary school settings, regardless of the infrastructure model used. The findings of this study highlight the role of administrative support that allows for autonomous AT practice as well as effective communication that is direct, open, and professional to decrease organizational-professional conflict.

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