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How general practitioners decide on maxims of action in response to demands from conflicting sets of norms: a grounded theory study
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4640-9149
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Medicinska och farmaceutiska vetenskapsområdet, centrumbildningar mm, Centrum för klinisk forskning i Sörmland (CKFD). Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0667-7111
2019 (English)In: BMC Medical Ethics, ISSN 1472-6939, E-ISSN 1472-6939, Vol. 20, article id 33Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: The work of general practitioners (GPs) is infused by norms from several movements, of which evidence based medicine, patient-centredness, and virtue ethics are some of the most influential. Their precepts are not clearly reconcilable, and structural factors may limit their application. In this paper, we develop a conceptual framework that explains how GPs respond, across different fields of interaction in their daily work, to the pressure exerted by divergent norms.

Methods: Data was generated from unstructured interviews with and observations of sixteen Swedish GPs (who have by definition more than five years of experience after license to practice) and family medicine residents (with less than five years of experience) between 2015 and 2017. Straussian Grounded Theory was used for analysis.

Results: We found that GPs’ maxims of action can be characterised in terms of dichotomous responses to demands from four distinct sets of norms, or “voices”: the situation, the self, the system, and the profession. From the interactions between these voices emerge sixteen clusters of maxims of action. Based on the common features of the maxims in each cluster, we have developed a conceptual framework that appears to be rich enough to capture the meaning of the ethical decisions that GPs make in their daily work, yet has a high enough level of abstraction to be helpful when discussing the factors that influence those decisions.

Conclusions: Our four-dimensional model of GPs' responses to norms is a first step toward a middle-range theory of quality from GPs' perspective. It brings out the complexity of their practice, reveals tensions that easily remain invisible in more concrete accounts of their actions, and aids the transferability of substantive theories on GPs' ethical decision making. By explaining the nature of the ethical conflicts that they experience, we provide some clues as to why efforts to improve quality by imposing additional norms on GPs may meet with varying degrees of success.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 20, article id 33
Keywords [en]
General practitioners, Grounded Theory, Quality of care, Professional ethics, Family medicine, Ethical decision making, Sweden
National Category
Medical Ethics
Research subject
Bioethics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-380517DOI: 10.1186/s12910-019-0360-3ISI: 000468055900003PubMedID: 31088448OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-380517DiVA, id: diva2:1299880
Available from: 2019-03-28 Created: 2019-03-28 Last updated: 2019-06-19Bibliographically approved

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Johnsson, LinusNordgren, Lena

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