Wednesday 23 December 2020

Enabling learning for wisdom and compassion in maternity care - new study

From Professor Jem Bendell, announcing publication of a new journal article:

"Whereas medical knowledge and medical management practices have been crucial for improving the lives of billions of people, there has been a shadow side to that progress. The dominance of certain forms of knowledge, attitude and behaviour within medical systems means that the wisdom, compassion and initiative of people who choose to work in helping the health and wellbeing of their fellow humans can be undermined. The profit motive in all aspects of health systems increases the potential undermining of such knowledges and approaches. 

Supporting the wisdom, compassion and initiative of people who provide health services, whether in formal or community settings will be increasingly important as established medical systems are put under increasing pressure, arising from disruptions of many kinds. For instance, pandemics are likely to increase due to human impacts on the environment and climate. 

In a new paper co-written with colleagues from Lancaster University and Impact International we seek to contribute to a dialogue on how to better support wisdom, compassion and initiative amongst medical professionals. We focus on what can be an emotionally intense aspect of medical service provision - maternity wards." 

The paper "Professional Learning from Disturbances in Healthcare: Managerialism and Compassion" appears in the International Journal of Management, Knowledge and Learning, 9(2), 129–151

It can be accessed for free

It is written by:

Katie Willocks, Lancaster University Management School, United Kingdom

Jem Bendell, University of Cumbria, United Kingdom

Richard Little, Impact International, United Kingdom


This study asks what behaviours might convert professional disturbances in maternity wards into opportunities for learning within healthcare and how that process is influenced by models of management and leadership. A framework of Cultural History Activity Theory helped to analyse moments of fractured collaboration in which uncertainty about roles and differences in professional status was a factor. Implications for professional learning are discussed along with the frames that might give coherence and utility to future research. We conclude that any interventions to support professional learning should reflect the broadly compassionate ethos that informs the commitments and activities of healthcare workers.

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