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The work of genetic care providers: Managing uncertainty and ambiguity

Health Care Providers, Institutions, and Patients: Changing Patterns of Care Provision and Care Delivery

ISBN: 978-0-76230-644-2, eISBN: 978-1-84950-047-0

ISSN: 0275-4959

Publication date: 10 May 2000

Abstract

Prenatal genetic testing is fast becoming standard practice in the medicalized arena of pregnancy in American health care provision. The interest of this paper, using empirical research data from participant observation and semistructured interviews of genetic counselors, geneticists, perinatologists, and obstetricians, is to explicate the provision of genetic care by the care-givers themselves, paying close attention to the ways they deal with the inherent uncertainties and ambiguities in medical genetics, especially prenatal genetic testing. Ambiguity and uncertainty are omnipresent in prenatal genetic testing, most obviously through the absence of an individual to examine in conjunction with test results. The test is for fetal abnormalities. Rarely are test results able to be interpreted with a clear, straightforward definition of what type of individual the fetus could eventually be. Through analysis of genetic intake meetings, departmental meetings, and quarterly interdepartmental meetings, the way providers order their work is elucidated; it reveals two work ideologies implemented to handle ambiguity and uncertainty: assessing the patient and tailoring the information to the patient. These work ideologies are examined through a social worlds/arenas theory and a sociology of work lens informed by symbolic interactionism. Analyzing providers' interpretations of their clinical practices allows an explication of their (re)construction of genetic medical knowledges through the individual providers' social worlds.

Citation

Karlberg, K. (2000), "The work of genetic care providers: Managing uncertainty and ambiguity", Jacobs Kronenfeld, J. (Ed.) Health Care Providers, Institutions, and Patients: Changing Patterns of Care Provision and Care Delivery (Research in the Sociology of Health Care, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 81-97. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0275-4959(00)80040-X

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, Emerald Group Publishing Limited