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Making collaboration work: Developing boundary work and boundary awareness in emergency exercises
University West, Department of Nursing, Health and Culture, Divison for Health, Culture and Educational Sciences. (LINA)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0871-0475
(English)In: Journal of Workplace Learning, ISSN 1366-5626, E-ISSN 1758-7859Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Collaboration in emergency work is challenging on many levels. The unforeseen and temporary nature of incidents presents basic challenges. Another important challenge is boundaries between specialized and autonomous emergency service organizations. We need to know more about how exercises are performed to increase the individuals and organizations preparedness for future joint response work. The aim of this study was to explore how boundary work is carried out at the incident site during exercises, and how boundary awareness is developed based on this boundary work. The analytic focus was on how boundaries were identified, negotiated and managed in the participants work. Empirically, full-scale exercises involving police, ambulance and rescue services and with repetition of practical scenarios and joint-reflection seminars are studied. Much of the work in the exercises was performed within distinct areas of expertise, in accordance with concrete routines, skills and responsibilities. Boundary work was often organized in the form of distribution of labour or creating chains of actions. The exercises shed light on challenges related to other aspects of emergency response,such as a lack of resources, diverging primary responsibilities, time-criticality and hazardous environments. The design allowed participants to explicate boundaries, test and discuss alternative solutions, and to visualize the effects of different solutions as the scenarios were repeated. The boundaries that were identified were often of institutional character, and were also related to the specific scenarios and to the actions taken in the activities. By integrating real-life experiences of collaborative work in the exercise, the exercise gained a certain meaning that was essential for the participants to develop boundary awareness.

Keyword [en]
Emergency work, collaboration, boundary work
National Category
Nursing
Research subject
Work Integrated Learning; NURSING AND PUBLIC HEALTH SCIENCE, Nursing science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-9332OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hv-9332DiVA: diva2:924934
Note

Ingår i doktorsavhandling

Available from: 2016-04-29 Created: 2016-04-29 Last updated: 2016-04-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. In case of emergency: Collaboration exercises at the boundaries between emergency service organizations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>In case of emergency: Collaboration exercises at the boundaries between emergency service organizations
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Due to the emergent and dynamic nature of incidents, the complexity of emergency work is often referred to as a challenge for learning. Another recurrent challenge in emergency work is that of collaboration at and across established organizational boundaries involving actors with specific types of expertise who are operating under different regulations and responsibilities. In addition, training emergency service organizations in collaboration remains a challenge. In light of the difficulties and shortcomings that have been identified in major incident responses, the need for exercises for developing and maintaining collaborative response effectiveness prior to the next incident is often highlighted. The overall aim of this thesis is to understand how full-scale exercises can provide conditions for developing inter-organizational collaboration between the police, ambulance and rescue services at the incident site. Learning activities that carry the potential to support and develop collaborative capacity, and how the alignment of distributed expertise can be trained for, were of particular interest. Interviews with participants in eight full-scale exercises with professionals and interviews and observations of one exercise with senior-level students in Sweden served as the empirical base.Central concepts from Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) provided theoretical tools to explore the exercises and understand boundaries between organizations with a wider, systemic approach. The empirical studies show that the participants understood full-scale exercises to be valuable opportunities for becoming involved in response work, making decisions, and acting and interacting in uncertain situations and realistic environments. As in real-life responses, exercises are characterized by the stabilization and confirmation of everyday routines on the one hand, and by improvisation and change on the other hand. The studies also show that exercises tend to focus on specific scenarios,intra-organizational routines, and leadership positions. Infrequent exercises inwhich the participants were only trained in a limited role were perceived to be in adequate for developing preparedness and collaboration. However, the analysis suggested that the way in which exercises were organized and performed had implications for how participants were trained in collaboration.Realizing the potential of boundaries as resources for learning in exercises depends on how boundaries are explicated and approached. Thus, rather than striving to ignore or eliminate boundaries in exercises, the studies illustrated the learning value of explicitly reflecting on the multiple understandings around boundaries. The studies demonstrated that much of the work at an incident site takes place around negotiations. Collaboration at the incident site was not only aquestion about boundary crossing; operational tasks may not always be aligned and have to be prioritized and sequenced. The exercises comprised work situations in which no single motive could explain or determine the collaboration,due to different types of expertise, primary responsibilities and needs forinformation. These factors were understood in terms of the concepts of boundarywork and boundary awareness. These concepts point at a more divergent understanding of collaboration that reaches beyond striving to create mutual understanding between organizations in learning activities. Differences between organizations, such as in terminology, time horizons, priorities, leadership structures, understandings of safety and how intra-organizational decisions and actions could impact the collaborating organizations' work, were central triggers for discussion and negotiation. These differences required explanations in order to make the actions and decisions of one organization understandable and justifiable to another, based on organizational mandates and types of expertise.Giving emergency services the opportunity to work together, to develop an awareness of their expectations of each other in various situations, to use and interpret their own and others' terminologies, and to identify internal hierarchies and motives for prioritizations was essential dimensions of exercises

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Trollhättan: University West, 2016. 135 p.
Series
PhD Thesis: University West, 8
Keyword
Exercise, Collaboration, Emergency preparedness, Emergency work, Police, Ambulance, Rescue service, Learning, Boundaries
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Work Integrated Learning; SOCIAL SCIENCE, Pedagogics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-9333 (URN)978-91-87531-29-3 (ISBN)978-91-87531-28-6 (ISBN)
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-05-02 Created: 2016-04-29 Last updated: 2016-06-27Bibliographically approved

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