Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, Vol 9, No 1 (2012)

‘I’m a nurse and I have the responsibility’: Human identity and non-human stakeholder agency in healthcare practice

Inger Lassen
Issued Date: 30 Dec 2013


This article explores the interplay of human and non human actors in a Danish hospital setting in which corporate and individual stakeholder identities are negotiated, contested or aligned with the common goal of providing good health care. Viewing the hospital as a network of stakeholders, and following Luoma-Aho and Paloviita (2010), I subscribe to the argument that non-human agency has been given too little attention in stakeholder literature. From this point of departure I discuss the complexities of nonhuman agency, bringing together aspects of Latour’s Actor Network Theory (ANT) and Halliday’s Grammatical Metaphor Theory. I subsequently combine ANT and Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) Theory (specifically, Grammatical Metaphor Theory, Transitivity analysis, and Mood and Modality) in analyses of selected data in an empirical case study of a hospital in Denmark. In the analyses I focus on the complex nature of non-human agency as construed in printed materials and interviews with nursing staff in one of the hospital wards. I discuss how non-human stakeholders might influence the construal of identity among nursing staff and conclude with reflections on the role played by non-human stakeholders in a healthcare sector increasingly governed by private-sector management instruments.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/japl.v9i1.105


Candlin, S. (2011) Changes in professional identity: Nursing roles and practices. In C. N. Candlin and S. Sarangi (eds) Handbook of Communication in Organizations and Professions, 551–570. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Candlin, S. and Candlin, C. N. (2007) Nursing through time and space: Some challenges to the construct of Community of Practice. In R. Idema (ed.) The Discourse of Hospital Communication, 224–267. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Freeman, R.E. (1984) Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Boston, MA: Pitman.
Greve, C. (2002) New Public Management. Working Paper. Frederiksberg: Nordic Culture Institute. Retreived on October 1 2013 from
Halliday, M. A. K. (1994) An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Arnold.
Halliday, M. A. K. and Matthiessen, C. (2004) An Introduction to Functional Grammar. Third Edition. London: Arnold.
Hood, C. (1991) A public management for all seasons? Public Administration 69 (1): 3–19.
Horsbøl. A. and Frimann, S. (2010) Professionalisering af kommunikation på sygehuse. In A. Horsbøl and M. B. Sørensen (eds) Sundhedskommunikation på sygehuset, 123–146. Aalborg: Aalborg University Press.
Iedema, R. (1996) The Language of Administration. Write it Right Industry Report No. 3. Sydney: NSW Department of Education, Disadvantages Schools Program Metropolitan East.
Iedema, R. (1997) The language of administration: Organizing human activity in formal institutions. In F. Christie and J. R. Martin (eds) Genre and Institutions: Social Processes in the Workplace and School. London and New York: Continuum.
Iedema, R. and Carroll, K. (2011) ‘The clinalyst’: Institutionalizing reflexive space to realize safety and flexible systematization in health care. Journal of Organizational Change Management 24 (2): 175–190.
Klausen, K. K. (2001) Skulle det være noget særligt? Organisation og ledelse i det offentlige. Copenhagen: Børsens Forlag.
Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the Social; An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lassen, I. and Strunck, J. (2011) I think Danish patients would feel the same: Counter-discourses emerging in the Danish health sector. Communication and Medicine, 8 (3): 223–233.
Luoma-aho, V. and Paloviita, A. (2010) Actor-networking Stakeholder Theory for today’s corporate communications. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 15 (1): 49–67.
Machin, D. and Mayr, A. (2012) How to do Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage.
MacIntosh, J. (2003) Reworking professional nursing identity. Western Journal of Nursing Research 25 (6): 725–741.
Martin, J. and Rose, D. (2007) Working with Discourse: Meaning Beyond the Clause. London and New York: Continuum.
Nursing Crib (2008) Roles & Responsibilities of a Nurse. Retrieved on October 4 2013 from
Region Nordjylland (2009) Maden er den bedste medicin. [Food is the Best Medicine]. Aalborg: Aalborg Sygehus Center for Ernæring og Tarmsygdomme.
Region Nordjylland (2010a) Mission, vision og værdier [Mission, Vision and Values] Aalborg: Aalborg Sygehus.
Region Nordjylland (2010b) Strategi for Aalborg Sygehus. [Strategy Plan for Aalborg Hospital]. Aalborg: Aalborg Sygehus Afdeling for Strategi og udvikling.
Strunck, J. and Lassen, I. (2011) The discursive construction of self-positioning amongst minority ethnic patients in a hospital ward. Journal of Multicultural Discourses 6 (3): 273–290.
Vidgen, R. and McMaster, T. (1996) Black boxes, non-human stakeholders and the translation of it through mediation. In W. J. Orlikowski, G. Walsham, M. R. Jones and and J. I. DeGross (eds.) Information Technology and Changes in Organizational Work: Proceedings of the IFIP WG8.2 Working Conference on Information Technology and Changes in Organizational Work, 250–271, London: Chapman and Hall.
Vrangbæk, K. (1999) New Public Management I sygehusfeltet – udformning og konsekvenser. In E. Zeuthen Bentsen, F. Borum, G. Erlingsdóttir and K. Sahlin-Andersson, (eds): Når styringsambitioner møder praksis, 33–56. Copenhagen: Handelshøjskolens Forlag.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy