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The social identity of hospital consultants as managers

Vincent Russell (Cavan‐Monaghan Mental Health Service, Cavan General Hospital, Cavan, Ireland)
Laura A. Wyness (Health Policy and Management, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland)
Eilish McAuliffe (Health Policy and Management, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland)
Martin Fellenz (School of Business, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 22 June 2010

854

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore hospital consultants' social identification, in terms of perceptions of their position in society, the salient targets for their social identification and how this appears to influence their perceptions of management activities and change.

Design/methodology/approach

A purposeful sample of 15 hospital consultants from a wide range of specialities and work locations in Ireland were recruited. Semi‐structured, in‐depth interviews were undertaken and thematic analysis was used to interpret the interview data.

Findings

The paper finds that all interviewees perceived public attitudes towards hospital consultants, as a group, to be negative. Twelve interviewees derived most sense of belonging from group membership within their immediate work area. These groups seemed to represent sources of validation and esteem and enabled consultants to exercise control over their work. Many consultants, however, described a sense of detachment from their employing health boards. Management, as a salient target for social group identification, was perceived as associated with powerlessness and lack of respect. Interviewees generally viewed involvement in management with little enthusiasm and considerable caution.

Practical implications

This paper shows that management approaches to hospital consultants could benefit from awareness that their social identity may already be under threat. Assaults on core professional values in the communication surrounding change are likely to provoke resistance. Existing work groups, with which consultants identify, could serve as a less threatening means to engage them with issues of cost and quality than externally imposed structures.

Originality/value

This paper informs ways in which hospital consultants could be more successfully involved in health service management.

Keywords

Citation

Russell, V., Wyness, L.A., McAuliffe, E. and Fellenz, M. (2010), "The social identity of hospital consultants as managers", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 220-236. https://doi.org/10.1108/14777261011054581

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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