Health Care Analysis

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 47–70

Professional Talk: How Middle Managers Frame Care Workers as Professionals

  • Lieke Oldenhof
  • Annemiek Stoopendaal
  • Kim Putters
Original Article


This paper examines how middle managers in the long term care sector use the discourse of professionalism to create ‘appropriate’ work conduct of care workers. Using Watson’s concept of professional talk, we study how managers in their daily work talk about professionalism of vocationally skilled care workers. Based on observations and recordings of mundane conversations by middle managers, we found four different professional talks that co-exist: (1) appropriate looks and conduct, (2) reflectivity about personal values and ‘good’ care, (3) methodical work methods, (4) competencies. Jointly, these professional talks constitute an important discursive resource for middle managers to facilitate change on the work floor. Change involves the reconfiguration of care work and different managerial-worker relations. Middle managers use professional talks in both enabling and disenabling ways vis-à-vis care workers. Based on these findings, we suggest a more nuanced portrayal of the relationship between managers and professionals. Rather than being based on an intrinsic opposition, i.e. ‘managers versus professionals’, this relationship is flexibly reconstructed via professional talk.


Professional talk Middle managers Vocational care workers Long term care Professionalism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lieke Oldenhof
    • 1
  • Annemiek Stoopendaal
    • 1
  • Kim Putters
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Health Policy and ManagementErasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

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