The Performance of Dialysis Care: Routinization and Adaptation on the Floor

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Taylor & Francis


Previous studies of communication in dialysis centers primarily focused on communication between nurses and patients. In this study, ethnographic methods were used to explore the dominant communication performances enacted by dialysis staff members, including registered nurses, patient care technicians, technical aides, a social worker, and a dietitian. Findings suggest a dialectic between extreme routinization of care and continual adaptation. The dominant routine involved repeating the same preparation, treatment, and discharge process 3 shifts per day, thrice weekly for each patient. At the same time, near-constant adjustments to scheduling, coordination of tasks, and problem solving were needed to maintain the performance of repetition. The balancing of this dialectic has significant implications for new staff training and socialization, understanding the role of technology and routine in dialysis and in health care systems more generally, and in further theorizing the role of unbounded communication interactions in health care.