chapter  2
Spoken interaction between non-physician personnel and patients
Pages 31

The doctor is, of course, not the only practitioner in the healthcare system. Many other people play a vital part in the daily operation of the clinic, including, to name but a few, nurses, cleaners, caterers, pharmacists, physiotherapists, receptionists, porters and chaplains. Thus the talk that routinely takes place in healthcare settings is wonderfully diverse, involving a variety of personnel (both medical and non-medical) whose distinct voices unquestionably contribute to the litany of the clinic. Yet despite the ubiquity of personnel besides the doctor, the doctor is often considered to be the pivotal gure in healthcare. This assumption is borne out by the amount of discoursebased research (some of which we considered in the previous chapter) dedicated to the medical consultation. A serious consequence of researchers clustering on the doctor-patient site is that, no matter how high quality and insightful each individual study, their research ndings provide a distorted account of hospital work (Hak, 1999: 441). In exploring the roles played by other staff besides doctors, this chapter aims to provide a more representative picture of the practitioner-patient exchange.