Sensory Work in Clinical Decision Making

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Sylvie GROSJEAN, University of Ottawa, Canada
Frederik MATTE, Department of Communication, University of Ottawa, Canada
Isaac NAHON-SERFATY, University of Ottawa, Canada
Sensory experiences comprise an integral part of clinical decision-making (Sterne, 2003; Maslen, 2017), as Mol clearly indicates: “[l]ong before machines are put to use, clinicians diagnose with their senses. They notice posture, muscle tone and bruises; they hear sadness in a tone of voice or the signs of impaired breathing; they feel for the pulse, for lumps; and they may smell metabolic disturbances” (2008, p. 39). Clinicians’ senses are constantly engaged (Schubert, 2011; Goodwin, 2010) and the senses are indispensable to clinicians’ judgments of health and illness because information is partially collected via the senses, and this sensing is a process of knowing. Even if the multitude of studies recognizing that clinical decision-making integrates (or should integrate) a sensory dimension (Svensson and Jacobson, 2014; Bleakey et al., 2003; Heiberg Engel, 2007; Manidis, 2013; Coget and Keller, 2010; Maslen, 2012), this dimension is not studied, observed, analyzed in detail. However, “research on sensory work in contemporary healthcare contexts is emerging in sociology of diagnosis and sciences and technology studies such as the dual use of senses and tests, and the delegation of sensory work” (Maslen, 2016, p. 173). The main objective of this communication is to investigate the role of sensory experiences in clinical decision-making. Based on a series of focus groups (building on a narrative approach) with nurses in diverse services at hospital (IUC, Surgery, Emergency, etc.), our study examines the “sensory work” of clinical decision-making (Maslen, 2017). During the video recorded focus group, the nurses share stories about the influence of senses on clinical decision-making. The analysis of clinical stories contributes to identify different situations of interaction revealing the “sensory work” that supports the clinical decision-making.