Power Games in the Hospital—Doing Gender or Doing Profession?

  • Kirsten Sander Technische Universität Dresden
Keywords: frame analysis, construction of gender, interaction of doctors and nurses, hospital, ethnography


This paper discusses findings from a study of inter-professional interaction between doctors and nurses in a surgical ward. The aim of the research is to analyze the construction of gender, profession and hierarchy in the context of the everyday interactions between members of the professions of nursing and medicine in the hospital. Participant observation was undertaken in two medical and two surgical wards in three hospitals. The present paper provides a microanalysis of ethnographic data in which Erving GOFFMAN's "frame analysis" (1974) is used as a central analytical resource. Gender and profession are interpreted as ongoing accomplishments. Stereotyping impacts of gender and profession are discussed as different "frames," which change or are linked in the social situation. In this particular case, an outspoken nurse is shown as she disrupts the frame of the doctor's rounds by displaying the assistant doctor as an embodied male person, thus "keying" the professional frame in a gender frame. The senior doctor "clears the frame" by making an ambiguous joke. I argue that doing subordination and doing domination in nursing and medicine are enacted by such gender displays. The interpretation shows the "doctor-nurse game" (STEIN, 1967) as a gendered power game. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs080146


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Author Biography

Kirsten Sander, Technische Universität Dresden
Kirsten SANDER, Dipl. Päd., Lehrerin für Pflegeberufe, Studium der Erziehungswissenschaft an der Universität Bremen, Diplomarbeit "Biographie und Interaktion in der Pflege. Lebensgeschichten im institutionellen Rahmen eines Altenheims", Bremer Studienpreis 2000, wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin in dem von der DFG geförderten Forschungsprojekt "Interaktion von Pflege und Medizin im Krankenhaus. Konstruktionsprozesse von Geschlecht, Hierarchie und berufliche Sozialisation" an der Universität Osnabrück von 2000 – 2003, Arbeitstitel des laufenden Dissertationsprojektes: "Soziale Praxis der Herstellung von (inter-) professionellen und (zwei-) geschlechtlichen Zugehörigkeitsgebieten. Eine ethnographische Studie zur Zusammenarbeit von Pflege und Medizin im Krankenhaus". Seit 2007 wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin im Institut für Sozialpädagogik, Sozialarbeit und Wohlfahrtswissenschaften, Fakultät Erziehungswissenschaften an der Technischen Universität Dresden.
How to Cite
Sander, K. (2008). Power Games in the Hospital—Doing Gender or Doing Profession?. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-9.1.323