Evidence-based healthcare in practice: A study of clinician resistance, professional de-skilling, and inter-specialty differentiation in oncology

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Journal Article
Social Science and Medicine, 2009, 68 (1), pp. 192 - 200
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Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is strongly shaping the nature and direction of biomedical practice and organisational culture. Clinicians are now expected to adopt the principles of EBM and evidence-based practice (EBP) whilst also maintaining such things as professional autonomy, clinical judgement and therapeutic integrity. Little sociological work has been done on the implications of EBM in oncology contexts. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 13 oncology consultants and 12 oncology nurses in Australia, in this paper we explore how oncology clinicians utilise and/or critique types of evidence and statistical probabilities; the organisational systematisation of care; and, wider policies of EBM. The results illustrate significant variation in perception of EBM between the oncology sub-specialties examined, and the central role of organisational structures and intra-professional hierarchies in how evidence is viewed and utilised in practice. The interviews also capture the ways in which oncology specialists are negotiating the systematisation of care under the rubric of EBM, and the contradictory effects of professional de-skilling vis-à-vis the reinforcement of biomedical objectivity/power. Finally, we examine the experiences and perceptions of oncology nurses in relation to evidence and EBM, exploring the interplay of processes of professionalisation and distinction in shaping the evidence-based trajectories of nursing. We contrast these results with previous sociological writings on EBM, reflecting on the applicability and limitations of these theoretical positions when applied to the experiences of oncology clinicians. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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