A Case Study Exploring the Professional Identities of a Group of Middle Managers in a School of Healthcare
thesisposted on 16.08.2012, 12:00 by Annette Jane Thomas-Gregory
In recent years modernisation practices introduced by successive governments and university funding bodies have converged to bring about a much larger and more academically diverse student body, alongside an increase in bureaucracy, marketization and government accountability. Middle managers in schools of healthcare have confronted these changes in tandem with obligations to the on-going pressures of integration with higher education and collaborative relationships with major stakeholders. Previous research into the role of the middle manager suggests that recruitment to the role is haphazard, that post-holders have little training, and that they struggle to manage aspects of their role. However, there has been little published research specific to the role of the middle manager in schools of healthcare. This study explores the professional identities of 14 middle managers in a single case study school of healthcare in a selected chartered (pre- 1992) UK university. The study adopts an interpretive approach, in line with social constructivism, exploring their beliefs, feelings and perceptions with regard to their career background, identities and role. The findings show that leaders in healthcare education claim legitimacy for their role from their credentials as clinical practitioners, managers and academics. This group of middle managers shared an early appreciation of the competitive nature of their field, and the importance of symbolic and academic capital. They were inclined to attribute their career success less to situated than core or dispositional aspects of their identity, and spoke of high levels of job satisfaction. It is recommended that new understandings of this role be incorporated into more specific job descriptions, shaped by the strategic vision of the university. Middle managers are identified as pivotal agents of change, and mediators who encourage staff to work with strategic, cultural, political and economic realities Senior leaders of higher education institutions might wish to consider employing individuals who are at a point of professional mastery, managerial expertise and academic acumen to equip them to juggle the multiple identities within this post.