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‘That's just how medicine is': a remote ethnographic study of Ireland's failure to meet the core work needs of its hospital doctors

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posted on 2024-02-06, 17:01 authored by Niamh HumphriesNiamh Humphries, Jennifer Creese, Aoife M McDermott, Gabrielle Colleran, Cian McDermott, John Paul ByrneJohn Paul Byrne

This study focuses on hospital doctors' experiences of work during the pandemic. The context is the Irish health system, under considerable strain due to the pandemic and a legacy of austerity/under-funding. Although medicine is considered a prestigious job, hospital doctors often endure challenging working conditions and work-life imbalance. In this paper we consider how a narrative of ‘medicine-as-vocation’ is used to excuse challenging working conditions and to impede change. West and Coia (2019) proposed a set of core work needs required to support doctor wellbeing and minimise work-related stress, i.e. autonomy/control, belonging and competence and these are applied as a lens to examine the everyday work experiences of respondent hospital doctors. Data collection was conducted in 2021 using a remote ethnographic method – Mobile Instant Messaging Ethnography (MIME) - developed by the research team to enable data collection at a time of pandemic restrictions (Humphries, Byrne, et al, 2022). Twenty-eight hospital doctors were recruited for the study. Each respondent was interviewed twice and engaged in a 12-week conversation with the research team via WhatsApp. We report hospital doctors' experiences of heavy workloads, weak line management and the challenges of influencing change at work. Overall, the findings presented demonstrate the myriad ways that Ireland is failing to meet the core work needs of its hospital doctors and how ‘medicine-as-vocation’ is used to justify organisational neglect. 

Funding

Irish Health Research Board via an Emerging Investigator Award [grant number: EIA 2017 022]

Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice

History

Comments

The original article is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/

Published Citation

Humphries N. et al. ‘That's just how medicine is': a remote ethnographic study of Ireland's failure to meet the core work needs of its hospital doctors. SSM Qual Res Health. 2024;5:100392

Publication Date

7 January 2024

Department/Unit

  • Graduate School of Healthcare Management

Research Area

  • Population Health and Health Services
  • Health Professions Education

Publisher

Elsevier BV

Version

  • Published Version (Version of Record)