Communication & Medicine, Vol 9, No 2 (2012)

Narrative co-construction in the medical consultation: How agency and control affect the diagnosis

Caroline H. Vickers, Ryan Goble, Christopher Lindfelt
Issued Date: 20 May 2013


The purpose of this paper is to examine patient-provider narrative co-construction of symptoms, diagnosis and treatment in the medical consultation. Narrative scholarship has demonstrated that conversational narratives, including those that take place in medical consultations, are typically co-constructed by all participants within the conversation. In the context of the medical consultation, this means that patient narratives are co-constructed with providers, and that at times, provider contributions to the patient narrative can hide patient contributions. The inherent power asymmetry that exists between patient and provider facilitates the possibility for provider contributions to obscure those of the patient. Based on audio-recorded data from medical consultations between two different nurse practitioners and one patient, findings from this study demonstrate that such narrative co-construction leads to differential information regarding the patient’s symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Implications include the need for providers to relinquish control over to the patient to allow the patient to fully articulate narrative accounts of their medical issues.

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DOI: 10.1558/cam.v9i2.159


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