Designing a better place for patients: Professional struggles surrounding satellite and mobile dialysis units
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The professional claims and struggles involved in the design of non-traditional health care places are rarely problematized in applied health research, perhaps because they tend to fade away once the new design is implemented. This paper offers insights into such professional tensions and their impact on health care delivery by examining the design of two dialysis service delivery models in Quebec, Canada. The satellite units were hosted in two small hospitals and staffed by recently trained nurses. The mobile unit was a bus fitted to accommodate five dialysis stations. It was staffed by experienced nurses and travelled back and forth between a university teaching hospital and two sites. In both projects, nephrologists supervised from a distance via a videoconferencing system. In this paper, we draw mainly from interviews with managers (mostly nurses) and physicians (n=18), and from on-site observations. Nephrologists, medical internists, and managers all supported the goal of providing "closer-to-patient" services. However, they held varying opinions on how to best materialize this goal. By comparing two models involving different clinical and spatial logics, we underscore the ways in which the design of non-traditional health care places opens up space for the re-negotiation of clinical norms. Instead of relatively straightforward conflicts between professions, we observed subtle but inexorable tensions within and beyond professional groups, who sought to measure up to "ideal standards" while acknowledging the contingencies of health care places.
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