School of Management

The Centre for Public Services Organisations

“Jurisdictional Change and Nursing’s Professionalization: Liberating nurses or losing the plot?”

Dr Carole Doherty, Lecturer in Health Care Management, University of Surrey


This presentation explores the effect of changes to nurses’ roles which have been promoted by the UK government as a means of enhancing service quality and reducing nursing’s subordination to the medical profession.

Questionnaire data were collected from 241 nurses to establish the extent of change to nurses’ roles. This was followed up by in-depth interviews with 30 nurses to explore the effect of role changes for nursing’s professionalization. Results: The results indicate that nurses’ roles have altered with nurses now performing tasks traditionally carried out by doctors. However, this has resulted in intra-occupational differentiation. Specialist nurses have experienced greater clinical autonomy but ward sisters and staff nurses have experienced greater subordination to doctors. Ward nurses are spending more time carrying out routine technical tasks and have less time for what they consider to be essential nursing work.

Overall government intervention in the division of labour may have been detrimental to the quality of essential aspects of patient care such as assisting patients with feeding and providing psycho-social support.

Time and Location

Date: 26th November 2008

Venue: Royal Holloway, University of London

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