Encountering the Familiar Unknown: The Hidden Work of Adjusting Medical Practice between Local Settings

A. Harris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


In their studies of doctors and hospitals, ethnographers have shown that medicine is practiced in local contexts. They have not, however, fully explored the processes involved when medical practitioners move between clinical settings. This article contributes to the study of medical work by looking at the adjustments international medical graduates must make to practice in Australian hospitals. These doctors are interesting to study ethnographically because, like many skilled migrants, they encounter workplaces similar, and simultaneously unfamiliar, to those they have known before. Drawing on the work of Merleau-Ponty, I develop the concept of "adjustment" as a movement between habit and the moment. My findings reveal how adjustment is both discursive and bodily, tied up with status and performance. Also, by focusing on the adjustments of migrant doctors, my study highlights the taken-for-granted aspects of medical practice and the environmentally situated nature of medical work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Early online date11 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014

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