On doing ‘risk work’ in the context of successful outcomes: exploring how medication safety is brought into action through health professionals’ everyday working practices

Albert Farre*, Karen Shaw, Gemma Heath, Carole Cummins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Interest in risk has grown exponentially in healthcare, resulting in a plethora of policies and guidelines to manage risk at all levels across the healthcare system. However, the impact of risk on the nature and experiences of healthcare work remains a relatively neglected area of research on risk in healthcare. Building on the concept of ‘risk work’, in this article we examine how medication safety is brought into action through health professionals’ everyday working practices at the point of medication administration. Drawing on two closely related data sets, both generated in a large paediatric hospital providing secondary and tertiary care in England, we argue that medication-related risks are constructed and negotiated through situated social interactions. Frontline practitioners actively reconcile the logics of risk work and good-quality bedside patient care enabling them to get risk work done to successfully meet the formally established standards of quality and safety performance. ‘Risk work’ has the potential to make visible and explicit a range of risk-related practices that may not be acknowledged as such if they do not align with the established meanings of risk and the normative frameworks built around them. A focus on ‘risk work’ can bring in a new lens to the study of risk in healthcare with the potential to generate learning from how risk work gets done in the context of routine clinical practice and successful outcomes, rather than incidents and failures, in healthcare service provision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-225
Number of pages17
JournalHealth, Risk and Society
Issue number3-4
Early online date13 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Health, Risk & Society on 13/6/17, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13698575.2017.1336512


  • everyday practice
  • informal logics
  • medication safety
  • organisations
  • risk

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