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Between change and reproduction: Profession, practice and organizational space in a hospital department

Jette Ernst (Department of Language and Communication, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 9 October 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of organizational space in attempts at practice redesign and innovation that involve a break with the traditional professional boundaries in a recently established Danish hospital department.


Organizational ethnography combined with Bourdieusian theorization. The data used for this paper are derived from 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork. The author performed participant and meeting observations combined with interviews and the reading of internal and external documents.


Despite the department’s attempts at pursuing practice redesign and innovation by breaking with the institutionalized professional boundaries as well as role hierarchies, and emphasizing collaboration between nurses and doctors, the paper demonstrates how the attempts at change meet invisible impediments in practice and how organizational space plays an important yet, overlooked part in reproducing field tradition.


By virtue of Bourdieusian theorization in combination with organizational ethnography, the paper contributes with unique insights into a seldom studied part of hospital organization, which is how organizational space, rather than being a backdrop for organizational life, is constructed and used by professionals whose habitus renders this space an active component in delimiting professional work as well as the scope of change.



Ernst, J. (2017), "Between change and reproduction: Profession, practice and organizational space in a hospital department", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 177-189.



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