The purpose of this paper is to underline the importance of taking work practices into account for quality improvement (QI) purposes, highlight some of the challenges of doing so, and suggest strategies for future research and practice. Patient status at a glance, a Lean-inspired QI intervention designed to alleviate nurses of their knowledge mobilisation function, is deployed as an illustrative case.
Ethnographic data and practice-based theories are utilised to describe nurses’ knowledge mobilisation work. The assumptions about knowledge sharing embedded in patient status at a glance white boards (PSAGWBs) are analysed drawing on actor network theory.
There is a disparity between nurses’ knowledge mobilisation practices and the scripts that inform the design of PSAGWBs. PSAGWBs are designed to be intermediaries and to transport meaning without transformation. When nurses circulate knowledge for patient management purposes, they operate as mediators, translating diverse information sources and modifying meaning for different audiences. PSAGWBs are unlikely to relieve nurses of their knowledge mobilisation function and may actually add to the burdens of this work. Despite this nurses have readily embraced this QI intervention.
The study is limited by its focus on a single case and by the inferential (rather than the empirical) nature of its conclusions.
This paper illustrates the importance of taking practice into account in healthcare QI, points to some of the challenges of doing so and highlights the potential of practice-based approaches in supporting progress in this field.
The fieldwork on which this research is based was carried out during a sabbatical period supported by Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies and the data analysis was undertaken as part of an Improvement Science Fellowship (2011-2014) funded by The Health Foundation. The author is immensely grateful for such investment, enthusiasm and support. Thanks are also due to the senior nurses in the study site who championed the research and the individuals who willingly allowed me to peer over their shoulder while they went about their everyday activities. The author is also appreciative of those who assisted with the development of the sampling frame: Sarah Morley, Amanda Monsell, Gillian Knight, Stephen Griffiths, Ann Jones, Alison Evans, Rhian Barnes, Judith Carrier and Elaine Beer.
Allen, D. (2016), "The importance, challenges and prospects of taking work practices into account for healthcare quality improvement", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 672-689. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHOM-04-2014-0062Download as .RIS
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