Should the nurse change the light globe? Academic Article uri icon


  • Over the last two decades New Public Management, de-institutionalization and the growth of community care have radically altered the landscape of human service delivery in Australia. As a consequence of these changes, human service agencies have been compelled to develop mechanisms for regulating and managing the risks involved in frontline community care — and the management of risk is now pivotal to the practices of professional workers in this field. British research suggests that the emphasis on risk gives rise to greater monitoring and administrative supervision of workers and a focus on managerial rather than therapeutic skills. This article presents some early findings from an Australian study that finds a very different picture. Based on interviews with 24 social workers and nurses employed in community care, we found that these workers expressed a strong sense of agency when interpreting and negotiating the risk management policies of their respective organizations, and were focused primarily on the needs of their clients rather than bureaucratic procedures.

publication date

  • December 2009

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