Giving voice to health professionals' attitudes about their clinical service structures in theoretical context

Jeffrey Braithwaite*, Mary T. Westbrook, Rick A. Iedema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Within the context of structural theories this paper examines what health professionals say about their clinical service structures. We firstly trace various conceptual perspectives on clinical service structures, discussing multiple theoretical axes. These theories question whether clinical service structures represent either superficial or more profound changes in hospitals. We secondly explore which view is supported though a content analysis of the free text responses of 111 health professionals (44 doctors, 45 nurses and 22 allied health practitioners) about their clinical service structures in a questionnaire survey in two large hospitals that had implemented clinical service structures three years previously. Commentaries unfavourable toward clinical service structures were made by 47.7% of staff, favourable by 24.3%, mixed (both favourable and unfavourable) by 17.1% and non-evaluative statements were made by 10.8%. The most frequent criticisms were inefficient organisation of change (27%), poor management (24.3%), lack of cooperation between staff (15.9%) and failure to empower health practitioners (13.5%). All professions made more negative than positive evaluations of their clinical service structures but the ratio was highest for doctors and lowest for allied health. Ranking of nurses' and allied health staffs' specific evaluations were similar but both differed significantly from doctors'. Unfavourable or negative comments predominated, and change appears more superficial and less profound than advocates of structural contributions hope. Four types of belief systems about clinical service structures are apparent. Some study participants are disposed toward the status quo; others toward restructuring; yet others are team oriented; and a final group is tribally oriented. The implication of this paper for managers is that more work is needed if clinical service structures are to realise the promise of more multi-disciplinarity and less fragmentation across professional groups. For scholars, the implication is that marrying different theoretical frames with empirical data can serve to produce fresh perspectives and perhaps new insights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-335
Number of pages21
JournalHealth Care Analysis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


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