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Interprofessional interaction, negotiation and non-negotiation on general internal medicine wards

Reeves S, Rice K, Conn LG, Miller KL, Kenaszchuk C, Zwarenstein M. J Interprof Care. 2009; 23(6):633-45.


Research suggests that health care can be improved and patient harm reduced when health professionals successfully collaborate across professional boundaries. Consequently, there is growing support for interprofessional collaboration in health and social care, both nationally and internationally. Factors including professional hierarchies, discipline-specific patterns of socialization, and insufficient time for teambuilding can undermine efforts to improve collaboration.

This paper reports findings from an ethnographic study that explored the nature of interprofessional interactions within two general and internal medicine (GIM) settings in Canada. 155 hours of observations and 47 interviews were gathered with a range of health professionals. Data were thematically analyzed and triangulated. Study findings indicated that both formal and informal interprofessional interactions between physicians and other health professionals were terse, consisting of unidirectional comments from physicians to other health professionals.

In contrast, interactions involving nurses, therapists and other professionals as well as intraprofessional exchanges were different. These exchanges were richer and lengthier, and consisted of negotiations which related to both clinical as well as social content. The paper draws on Strauss' (1978) negotiated order theory to provide a theoretical lens to help illuminate the nature of interaction and negotiation in GIM.

Keywords: Interprofessional care

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