Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

Narrative Identity Work in a Medical Ward - A Study of Diversity in Health Care Identities

Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

Narrative Identity Work in a Medical Ward - A Study of Diversity in Health Care Identities

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

A recent debate in identity studies is about gender of health care professions arguing that the feminization of health care professions will diminish diversity as well as status in the field. The paper argues that even in health care professions of many females, such as within public rehabilitation, there is still diversity in the creation of professional identity. This paper argues that the fundamental part the identity of rehabilitation professionals is not formed by educational values, gender and knowledge, but is created in the everyday work with patients and other professionals. Drawing on narrative interviews with rehabilitation professionals, the paper illustrates how rehabilitation professionals construct their identities and what kind of identity work is emerging. The findings illustrate hybrid identities and tensions in the attempts of becoming identities in the interaction with patients and colleagues.

Key words: Identity work, heath care professions, hybrid identities.

INTRODUCTION

There is a large body of research attempting to describe the educational values of health care professions, and the combats over different kinds of health care values. A recent issue is gender in the health care professions arguing that the feminization of health care professions will diminish diversity as well as status in the field. The paper argues that even in health care professions of many females, such as in public rehabilitation, there is still diversity in the creation of professional identities.

Recent studies of organizational identities have applied a narrative approach to understanding the construction of identities that reaches beyond organizational formalization and concerns both individuals and organizational identities (Gabriel 2000, Czarniawska 1997, EGOS book, Brown & Humphreys 2002). The paper is an attempt to bridge a personal and interpersonal focus of identities by illustrating multiple organizing identities.

In a hospital context, identity research has primarily focused on the identity of individual health care professionals. This research has supported a formal identity formation influenced by education, knowledge and moral authority (Freidson 2001, MacDonald 1995). Earlier identity studies have traditionally focused on the identity of either physicians (Jespersen 1996, 2003, Hunter, 1991, Kleinman, 1980; Loewe, 1998; Sharf, 1990), nurses or other health care professionals (Sehested 2002; Burrage & Torstendahl 1990). Few narrative studies have focused on patient stories and identities (Bury, 2001 ; Frank, 2000; Garro, 2000). Even fewer studies have focused on how group identities are relating to each other (Mattingly, 1998a, 1998b; Mishler, 1984, Eggy, 2002). Despite of all the identity studies conducted in the context of hospitals, we lack identity studies focusing on the multiple and informal ways of creating hospital identity that highlight relation between the personal and organizational identities.

I want to expand the existing body of work on identities by focusing on the how both organizational and personal genre stories contribute to create identity work in hospital settings. The argument is that professional identity is a not a given position based on education or status but is created in an ongoing identity work. The research question in this paper is: what kind of identity work is going on during the everyday working life of rehabilitation professionals when interacting with patients and other professionals? The contribution of this study is thus to elucidate the process of identity work of health care professionals and extent the understandings of identity work as a creative, never ending process that does not function as a control instrument.

NARRATIVE IDENTITY STUDIES

The theoretical framework of this study is rooted in theories of organizational sociology and in theories of identity construction (e.g. Albert and Whetten, 1985; Albert et al. …

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