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Managing liminality: professional care during organizational change

Eileen Mary Willis (College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)
Deidre D. Morgan (College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia, Bedford Park, Australia)
Kate Sweet (Barossa Hills Fleurieu Local Health Network, SA Health Government of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 23 July 2020

Issue publication date: 26 May 2021




The purpose of this study is to examine the way in which the theoretical construct of liminality contributes to understanding the process of dying of cancer from the perspective of patients, carers and professionals in a state-run organization undergoing privatization.


Qualitative interviews were held with 13 patients and their carers and two focus groups with eight physiotherapists and occupational therapists. Data were analysed from the perspective of liminality for all three actors: patients, carers and health professionals.


The theoretical construct of liminality was useful for understanding the lived experience of patients and their carers. However, a major finding of this study reveals that health professionals operated in a dual space as both managers of the ritual process and individuals undergoing a liminal journey as their organization underwent transformation or restructure. Clients and carers had little knowledge of these tensions.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are limited by the fact that the interviews did not directly ask questions about the restructure of the organization.

Social implications

It would appear that professionals provide quality care despite their own struggles in moving from one organizational form to another


Few studies have explored the liminal rituals of dying at home that outline how professionals, as managers of the process, deal with their own liminal issues.



Funding: This study was funded by a Flinders University, School of Health Sciences Co-investment grant. We acknowledge the support and willingness of the health professionals and community clients to participate in this study and share their experiences with us.


Willis, E.M., Morgan, D.D. and Sweet, K. (2021), "Managing liminality: professional care during organizational change", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 41 No. 5/6, pp. 735-747.



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