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Why must I wait? Performing legitimacy in a hospital emergency department

Hillman, Alexandra ORCID: 2014. Why must I wait? Performing legitimacy in a hospital emergency department. Sociology of Health and Illness 36 (485) , pp. 485-499. 10.1111/1467-9566.12072

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This article examines the processes of negotiation that occur between patients and medical staff over accessing emergency medical resources. The field extracts are drawn from an ethnography of a UK emergency department (ED) in a large, inner city teaching hospital. The article focusses on the triage system for patient prioritisation as the first point of access to the ED. The processes of categorising patients for priority of treatment and care provide staff with the opportunities to maintain control over what defines the ED as a service, as types of work and as particular kinds of patients. Patients and relatives are implicated in this categorical work in the course of interactions with staff as they provide reasons and justifications for their attendance. Their success in legitimising their claim to treatment depends on self-presentation and identity work that (re)produces individual responsibility as a dominant moral order. The extent to which people attending the ED can successfully perform as legitimate is shown to contribute to their placement into positive or negative staff-constituted patient categories, thus shaping their access to the resources of emergency medicine and their experience of care.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (CESAGen)
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 0141-9889
Funders: Cardiff University school of social sciences PhD studentship award
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 17 May 2023 03:05

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