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Title: The habitus of ‘rescue’ and its significance for implementation of rapid response systems in acute health care
Authors: Mackintosh, Nicola
Humphrey, Charlotte
Sandall, Jane
First Published: 19-Sep-2014
Publisher: Elsevier
Citation: Social Science & Medicine, 2014, 120, pp. 233-242
Abstract: The need to focus on patient safety and improve the quality and consistency of medical care in acute hospital settings has been highlighted in a number of UK and international reports. When patients on a hospital ward become acutely unwell there is often a window of opportunity for staff, patients and relatives to contribute to the ‘rescue’ process by intervening in the trajectory of clinical deterioration. This paper explores the social and institutional processes associated with the practice of rescue, and implications for the implementation and effectiveness of rapid response systems (RRSs) within acute health care. An ethnographic case study was conducted in 2009 in two UK hospitals (focussing on the medical directorates in each organisation). Data collection involved 180 h of observation, 35 staff interviews (doctors, nurses, health care assistants and managers) and documentary review. Analysis was informed by Bourdieu's logic of practice and his relational concept of the ‘field’ of the general medical ward. Three themes illustrated the nature of rescue work within the field and collective rules which guided associated occupational distinction practices: (1) the ‘dirty work’ of vital sign recording and its distinction from diagnostic (higher order) interpretive work; (2) the moral order of legitimacy claims for additional help; and (3) professional deference and the selective managerial control of rescue work. The discourse of rescue provided a means of exercising greater control over clinical uncertainty. The acquisition of ‘rescue capital’ enabled the social positioning of health care assistants, nurses and doctors, and shaped use of the RRS on the wards. Boundary work, professional legitimation and jurisdictional claims defined the social practice of rescue, as clinical staff had to balance safety, professional and organisational concerns within the field. This paper offers a nuanced understanding of patient safety on the front-line, challenging notions of the ‘quick fix’ safety solution.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.09.033
ISSN: 0277-9536
eISSN: 0277-9536
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © 2014, Elsevier Ltd. Deposited with reference to the publisher’s open access archiving policy.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Health Sciences

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