Theorising inter-professional work: The role of 'relational agency' in early childhood settings

Year: 2012

Author: Nuttall, Joce

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper is drawn from an ongoing study of how hospital play specialists engage with other professionals in order to achieve the aims of their work.  The primary aim of the initial phase of the study, reported here, is to test the utility of the concepts of 'relational agency' and 'common knowledge' (Edwards, 2010) as tools to understand how hospital play specialists, as low-status professionals in hospitals, manage their interactions with professionals from comparatively high-status professions, such as medical consultants. Focusing on hospital play specialists, whose work demands they traverse the complex borderlands between educational and medical practice, offers the potential for distinctive insights into how early years educators might articulate and contribute their core expertise and build common knowledge in inter-professional settings. The study arose from the observation that hospital play specialists, who typically come from a background as early years educators, are able to advocate the needs of children despite the prevailing discourses of illness, treatment, and remediation found in hospital settings. Our central argument, based on analysis of interviews with play specialists in two London hospitals in 2011, is that HPSs have developed distinctive forms of relational agency in order to negotiate these discursive and status differentials.