The puzzle of therapeutic emplotment: creating a shared clinical plot through interprofessional interaction in biopsychosocial pain rehabilitation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionSocial Science and Medicine. 2021, 277 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.113904
Interprofessional collaboration is increasingly encouraged and studied. However, there remains a need to broaden the understanding of professionals’ contributions through their day-to-day interactions to minimize the impact of professional boundaries that evoke gaps in patient care. Drawing upon narrative theory emphasizing therapeutic emplotment, this ethnographic study explores how professionals contribute to interprofessional collaboration through social interactions during teamwork. Data collection was undertaken in a biopsychosocial pain rehabilitation ward in a hospital in Norway in 2016, and included participant observation of the ward-based work of two teams, and interviews with professionals from six professions (12) and patients (7). Formal and informal interprofessional interactions and patient encounters were observed. The study found that through interactions, the professionals’ shared their understandings across all professions about the successfulness of their own work and of what outsider professionals were doing incorrectly when addressing patients from a biomedical approach. Imbued in these interactions were the pieces of an implicit shared clinical plot for their patients’ journeys through rehabilitation and life afterwards. We argue that creating the shared clinical plot enhances conciliation across professions and interpersonal motivation to carry out the work. A struggle between perspectives in interprofessional collaboration should not be prematurely interpreted as an obstruction to collaboration, since the struggle can imbue essential narrative work. This extends the theoretical study of therapeutic emplotment as a central motivational process in interprofessional collaboration in teams.