Negotiating Social Differences and Power Geometries among Healthcare Professionals


Ammann, Carole, Julia Mall, Marina Richter, and Susan Thieme. 2021. Negotiating Social Differences and Power Geometries among Healthcare Professionals in a Swiss Hospital

In this article, we analyse two parallel processes taking place in the Swiss healthcare sector, namely differentiation and standardisation: On one hand, the health sector is increasingly characterised by differentiation that originates from the specialisation of training, the differentiation and academisation of nursing, the feminisation of medicine, the migration of healthcare personnel, and the entry of men into nursing professions. In addition, a new generation joining the health sector labour force is challenging taken-for-granted notions about health professions. On the other hand, healthcare organisations such as hospitals need to ensure they are functioning well by increasingly relying on standardisation processes such as checklists, standardised protocols, or ethical guidelines. For this paper, we have conducted an institutional ethnography of a Swiss acute hospital by employing an intersectional analysis. Based on interviews and shadowing, we argue that the social differences between and among nurses and physicians are constantly negotiated every day. We demonstrate that those differences lead to power imbalances along the intersectional axes of age, gender, place of education, and professional position. Our findings have implications for general debates in health-related fields; for management and organizational studies more in general; and in particular for feminist labour geographies, as they place debates on work-relations, power, hierarchy, and intersectional social differences into a specific organizational and spatial context.


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In: Gender, Place & Culture 28 (2): 1715–1737.








Santé – médecine


Sciences infirmières, Etudes Genre, Travail social