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Publié par
Nombre de lectures 14
Langue English


Team Meetings in Specialist Palliative Care: Asking Questions
as a Strategy Within Interprofessional Interaction
Anne Arber R.N., M. Sc., Ph.D
University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
In this article, I explore what happens when specialist palliative care staff meet together to discuss
patients under their care. Many studies (e.g., Atkinson) have discussed how health care
practitioners in various settings use rhetorical strategies when presenting cases in situations such
as ward rounds and team meetings. Strategies for arguing and persuading are central to medical
practice in the interprofessional context. The context of specialist palliative care is an interesting
place for research, as there is a history of patient centred holistic approaches to care, within a
multidisciplinary context, that is interdisciplinary in its focus, structure, and practice (e.g.
Saunders). This article examines the rhetorical accomplishment of teamwork in specialist
palliative care settings.
Keywords: discourse analysis; ethnography; institutional; organizations; palliative careLiterature Review
The philosophy of specialist palliative care prioritises person centred care, and is concerned with
total care and teamwork in a non hierarchical setting (Clark, 1999;Hibbert et al., 2003).
Therefore, the hospice and palliative care movement proposes a collaborative and team based
model of work (Clark & Seymour, 1999). Team meetings are a way of structuring
interprofessional relationships (Hugman, 1991). In the context of specialist palliative care, team
work enables a focus on medical concerns such as managing complex symptoms as well as the
wider issues of comfort and total care made possible by the interprofessional approach to team
meetings, involving practitioners from a variety of disciplines (Gracia, 2002). The patient
centred nature of hospice and specialist palliative care practice is reported in a number of studies,
in particular, the attention to physical symptoms as well as psychosocial care (Hibbert et al.,
2003). Cicely Saunders, the founder of the modern hospice movement in the UK, proposed that
patient’s “total pain” could be addressed by having a division of labour represented in the context
of team work that addressed the many components of pain, including physical, spiritual,
emotional and social aspects (Clark, 1999). Thus, the discipline of specialist palliative care and
hospice care has a philosophy of practice that integrates the psychological, physical and spiritual
aspects of patient care and is committed to the “total care” approach and the importance of team
work (Clark & Seymour,1999). Therefore the team is an important decision making unit when
providing patient centred care that is the founding principle of specialist hospice and palliative
care practice.
According to Dingwall, (1980), “team” is a device for concerting action. It is a way of co
ordinating a set of individual activities in other words, it suggests a division of labour related to
work. Dingwall concludes that teamwork is a way of resolving issues related to inclusion and
exclusion and can address problems of occupational boundary maintenance. Team members may
have quite different organizational or disciplinary agendas but have to align those agendas along
shared tracks. Therefore, teamwork has an important place in achieving the alignment of agendas
and shared outcomes (Boden, 1994). The alignment of different agendas proceeds through talk in
action in the team meetings, and this is a complex process involving disciplinary knowledge but it
is also a social process. Interaction in team meetings has a strategic objective and according to
Arminen, (2005), the strategic intent of interaction can be covert, is difficult to observe and can
only be inferred. However White, (2002), using an ethnographic approach to study social
relations and case formulations in a child health service, was able to unpack how practitioners
used complex rhetorical formulations in multidisciplinary team meetings and concludes that by
studying how cases are formulated not only tells us about professional know how but also about
how judgements are made in a social context. A number of authors discuss how little attention has
been given to the social organisation of everyday work and to the discourse between health care
practitioners (Atkinson 1994; Opie 1997).
Many studies discuss the complexities associated with team work such as “turf battles,”
“jockeying for position” (Leathard, 1994), managing threats to professional status (Cohen, 2003),
building reputation (Arber, 2007), representations of the patient (Crepeau, 2000), and judgements
made about credibility (Smith 1978). However, in an interview study with staff caring for older
people a common language suggesting collegiality was identified by Sheehan, Robertson, and
Ormond (2007) in this data extract:1. Doctor “We are not getting far with rehabilitation And
2. Physiotherapist (referring to working with an occupational therapist) “We
3. plan the session together; we were going to look at standing together so that
4. the OT could attend to [patient’s] clothing.”
Quoted in Sheehan et al., (2007,p.22)
In this talk the doctor refers to the team action related to a patient’s rehabilitation and evaluates
the lack of progress so far using the team device “we” (line 1). In the next turn (line 3) the
physiotherapist refers to him/herself and the occupational therapist as “we”. Sheehan et al. (2007)
identifies how this team worked together in a collaborative manner through their use of language,
particularly the use of “we”. The use of “we” in discourse is a marker of in group identity
according to Brown & Levinson, (1978). Furthermore, Drew & Heritage (1992) say that “we”
can be heard as a collective identity and Watson (1987) agrees that it is a team device and
identifies oneself as a member of a unit or organisation. According to Opie, (2000), the
development of shared linguistic practice is a marker of an interprofessional team. I therefore
suggest that the analysis of team talk is a key resource when studying interprofessionality.
Team meetings are a primary site for the distribution and eliciting of information about patients.
Information is checked and verified as well as simply elicited before decisions are made and
actions are taken. For example, Mills (2003), explores how individuals negotiate with what they
assume are community of practice norms in the performance of a particular task. These groups of
people engaged in a task have a shared repertoire of negotiable resources accumulated over time
(Wenger, 1998). However, communities of practice are in a constant process of change and the
interest in this article is in how teams construct their work through talk and how this enables
outcomes relevant to interprofessional work. Furthermore, there is now a focus on the “new
workplace” as a social institution where resources are produced, professional knowledge
constituted, problems solved and decisions made incrementally and achieved interactionally
(Boden, 1994; Sarangi & Roberts 1999). In the new workplace, practices such as interprofessional
interaction and negotiation are centre stage, and this represents a shift from doing work to talking
about it and negotiating it with others (Iedema & Scheeres, 2003). According to Iedema &
Scheeres (2003), working within teams encourages reflection and reflexivity. This is because
team work enables two things to happen: it enables teams to talk about how work is done as well
as how identity is relevant to that work. The politics of the workplace then become centred
around challenging boundaries as well as defending them, and constructing what is and should be
happening (Iedema & Scheeres, 2003). Power is latent in all conversation, according to Wang
(2006), and dialogue and rhetorical strategies enable participants to use their power by bringing in
a element of control. Thus, in an analysis of team talk it is possible to have insight into how
relations of power are constituted and shaped through communicative practices and how these
practices are changing (Wenger, 1998).
How team meetings are organised through verbal and linguistic features is important for a number
of reasons. First, in meetings, discourse identities are made relevant by how one organises one’s
speech such as asking questions, telling stories, and so forth (Atkinson,1994). Second, the
discourse of health care practitioners in team meetings has functional and social significance andenables an understanding of interprofessional interaction and decision making at one point in
time. Third, an approach using discourse analysis enables a detailed grasp of interaction and
rhetorical performance and sheds light on how collegiality is constructed, and professional
boundaries managed.
I have two aims for this article:
to explor

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