Most frequently downloaded articles

Defining a Profession: The Role of Knowledge and Expertise

Mike Saks

The paper highlights the importance of resurrecting the debate about how to define a profession. The drive to define a profession is traced back to the taxonomic approach – encompassing the work of trait and functionalist writers – in which professions were seen as possessing unique and positive characteristics, including distinctive knowledge and expertise. A range of critical challenges to this approach are then considered, particularly as they relate to the role of knowledge and expertise in defining a profession, covering interactionism, Marxism, Foucauldianism and discourse analysis. However, the most effective challenge to the taxonomic approach is considered to be the neo-Weberian perspective based on a less broadly assumptive and more analytically useful definition of a profession centered on exclusionary closure. With reference to case studies, the relative merits of neo-Weberianism compared to taxonomic and other approaches are examined in relation to the role of knowledge and expertise and delineating professional boundaries. 

 

Organizational Sense: A Notion for Studying Emerging Organizational Professionalism at Work

Gérald Gaglio

This article examines organizational professionalism at work and in action. I focus on how organizational professionalism emerges in the workplace and what kinds of situated skills are involved. Organizational professionalism is explored in three dimensions (activity, politics, and ethics), from which the notion of organizational sense is developed. Organizational sense has three accepted meanings. The first accepted meaning relates to everydayness and ecologies of action. It has collective, material, and informational dimensions, and is distributed between people and objects. The second accepted meaning concerns the political dimension of performing a professional activity and its sensitivity (attentiveness, discernment, etc.). The third accepted meaning concerns ethics and examines loyalty toward an organization. The notion of organizational sense is illustrated by means of fieldwork with a population of internal communicators working in seven major French organizations. 

 

How important is Autonomy to Professional Workers?

Arne Mastekaasa

A common assumption is that autonomy is crucial to professional workers. I examine this using survey data on a sample of public sector welfare professionals, viz. medical doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers. Comparisons are made with general population data from the International Social Survey Programme. Two methods of assessing the importance of work autonomy are employed; respondents’ direct ratings and statistical associations between work autonomy (and other job characteristics) on the one hand and job satisfaction and organizational commitment on the other. Findings: Autonomy is not rated as more important among the professionals than in the general population, and neither is it more strongly related to job satisfaction. Interesting work and workplace social support appear to be more central. 


Most downloaded articles in 2016


Discretion is quintessential for professional work. This review aims to understand how nurses use discretion when they perform urgency assessments in emergency departments with formalised triage systems—systems that are intended to reduce nurses’ use of discretion. Because little research has dealt explicitly with this topic, this review addresses the discretionary aspects of triage by reinterpreting qualitative studies of how triage nurses perform urgency assessments. The review shows (a) how inexhaustive guidelines and a hectic work environment are factors that necessitate nurses’ use of discretion and (b) how nurses reason within this discretionary space by relying on their experience and intuition, judging patients according to criteria such as appropriateness and believability, and creating urgency ratings together with their patients. The review also offers a synthesis of the findings’ discretionary aspects and suggests a new interactionist dimension of discretion.

 

Professional self-regulation is often conceptualised as involving the delegation of state powers to professional groups.  An examination of four groups in the United Kingdom provides examples of self-regulation that have developed, with one partial exception, without the support of any statutory framework. Some common aspects of self-regulation are identified along with some differences that relate to how the professions have evolved, and to their operating contexts. Significant influences include how the profession is situated among adjacent groups, the degree of demand from clients and employers for qualified practitioners, and potentially whether the occupation is suitable as an initial career or requires  a measure of maturity and prior experience. An argument is made for greater recognition, both through practical examples and in academic discourse of self-regulation that is initiated and furthered voluntarily through negotiation between professions, their members and their clients rather than via legislative powers.


Discourses in Residential Child Care and Possibilities for Evidence-Based Practice

Monika Reime

This article explores professional discourses in the Norwegian residential child care system. It discusses how the discourses serve as constraints on and possibilities for evidence-based practice when different definitions of evidence-based practice are considered. Among the Nordic countries, Norway has been a forerunner in the implementation of evidence-based practice in child welfare. However, I argue that tensions exist, both within professional practice and between professional understandings and policy aims. I use discourse theory to analyze interviews with 19 professionals working in coercive residential child care. The results reveal two competing professional discourses: the discourse of technoscience and the discourse of indeterminacy. Possibilities of evidence-based practice in residential child care are found within both discourses if a wide and inclusive definition of evidence-based practice is applied. This study emphasizes the importance of engaging in constant reflection when discussing possibilities for evidence-based practice within residential child care. 


Updated in March 2017