Physicians are known for safeguarding their professional identities against organisational influences. However, this study shows how a medical leadership programme enables the reconstruction of professional identities that work with rather than against organisational and institutional contexts to improve quality and efficiency of care. Based on an ethnographic study, the results illustrate how physicians initially construct conflicting leadership narratives – heroic (pioneer), clinical (patient's guardian) and collaborative (linking pin) leader – in reaction to changing organisational and clinical demands. Each narrative contains a particular relational-agentic view of physicians regarding the contexts of hospitals: respectively as individually shapeable; disconnected or collectively adjustable. Interactions between teachers, participants, group discussions and in-hospital experiences led to the gradual deconstruction of the heroic –and clinical leader narrative. Collaborative leadership emerged as the desirable new professional identity. We contribute to the professional identity literature by illustrating how physicians make a gradual transition from viewing organisational and institutional contexts as pre-given to contexting, that is, continuously adjusting the context with others. When engaged in contexting, physicians increasingly consider managers and directors as necessary partners and colleague-physicians who do not wish to change as the new ‘anti-identity’.

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Sociology of Health and Illness
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)

Berghout, M., Oldenhof, L., van der Scheer, W.K. (Wilma K.), & Hilders, C. (2019). From context to contexting: professional identity un/doing in a medical leadership development programme. Sociology of Health and Illness. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.13007