How and where clinicians exercise power: Interprofessional relations in health care

Peter Nugus*, David Greenfield, Joanne Travaglia, Johanna Westbrook, Jeffrey Braithwaite

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Citations (Scopus)


This study aims to contribute to the limited set of interactional studies of health occupational relations. A "negotiated order" perspective was applied to a multi-site setting to articulate the ways in which clinicians' roles, accountabilities and contributions to patient care are shaped by the care setting and are influenced by the management of patient pathways. The study responds to the polarized debate between a critical perspective that calls for collaboration as the re-distribution of occupational power, and a functionalist view that argues for better coordination of health care teams. The study draws on data from 63 interviews, 68 focus groups and 209 h of observation across acute and non-acute health services within a state/territory in Australia. The paper reveals the exercise of both "competitive power" and "collaborative power" in the negotiated order of health services. Both forms of power are exercised in all settings. Relationships among clinicians in various occupations are mediated by the expectation that doctors assume responsibility for patient management and coordinating roles in health care teams, and the degree of acuity of particular health care settings. The combination of a negotiated order perspective and its unique application across a whole health system shows the continuation of a broad pattern of power by doctors over those in other roles. The paper also reveals novel criteria for evaluating the extent of power-sharing in interprofessional interaction in case conferences, and a unique quantification of such interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)898-909
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'How and where clinicians exercise power: Interprofessional relations in health care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this