Medicine and the health professions: issues of dominance, autonomy and authority.

D. Kenny*, B. Adamson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    45 Citations (Scopus)


    Medical dominance of health care has traditionally been the organising principle in health care delivery. Medical power is manifested through the professional autonomy of doctors, through their pivotal role in the economics of health services, through dominance over allied health occupational groups, through administrative influence, and through the collective influence of medical associations. Using Friedson's four factor definition of medical dominance, a structured interview schedule was developed to examine one aspect of medical dominance, that is, doctors' control over the allied health professions. Ninety interviews were carried out with a sample of nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and psychologists working in various health care settings in metropolitan Sydney, seeking their perceptions on the way in which the medical profession interacts with their occupational group. The findings indicate that a significant proportion (73%) of health professionals did not feel regarded as professional equals by doctors. Nor did they feel that doctors had an adequate knowledge and understanding of their professions (73%). However, the majority (74%) felt that they had sufficient autonomy and were able to discuss doctors' instructions and offer advice or suggestions to doctors. Length of service significantly contributed to perceptions of professional autonomy amongst allied health professionals. These results support the view that the increased autonomy of the allied health professions has not impinged on medical dominance in the health care delivery system. Recommendations for further research and the training of medical and allied health professionals are made.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)319-334
    Number of pages16
    JournalAustralian Health Review: a publication of the Australian Hospital Association
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1992


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