In a moment of mismatch: overseas doctors' adjustments in new hospital environments

Sociol Health Illn. 2011 Feb;33(2):308-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01307.x. Epub 2011 Jan 12.


This paper contributes to studies of healthcare worker migration and, more broadly, to the study of occupational adjustment, with an analysis of finely detailed sensorial data. It focuses upon doctors, who are increasingly on the move around the world, working in hospital environments different from those in which they have trained. A number of unexamined questions remain in relation to how medical practitioners shift their work across contexts, in particular the tactile nature of adjustment, which has been under-explored in health sociology. This paper examines a procedural skill; a skill in which tools have become almost natural extensions of the doctor's hands. It focuses upon what happens when doctors travel overseas and find unfamiliar equipment, and their habitual practice is interrupted. The paper argues that by studying overseas doctors' bodily adjustment during such moments of mismatch, we learn more about the environment of the doctors' past and present. It suggests that by looking at the rupture between habit and the unfamiliar, we also understand something about the ways in which we adjust to the unexpected.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Professional Competence
  • Social Environment*
  • Touch
  • Workplace