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Fam Pract. 2008 Feb;25(1):14-9. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmn001. Epub 2008 Feb 14.

Parents and nurses during the immunization of children--where is the power? A conversation analysis.

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Community Health Research Collaboration ki Waitaha, Christchurch, New Zealand.



Best practice for health care practitioners is considered patient-centred approaches which empower patients. Immunization of young children requires maintaining this approach while retaining professional management.


The objectives were to assess situations within the immunization event with discordance between health provider and caregiver and evaluate strategies used to empowering parents while obtaining the desired clinical outcome.


This was a qualitative study nested within a larger study of immunization rates in 124 randomly selected primary care practices. Interactions between immunizing practice nurses, caregivers and children were videotaped and transcribed and underwent conversation analysis. Six purposively sampled primary care practices in Auckland, New Zealand, served as the setting. The participants were eight practice nurses immunizing 10 children and their parents. Normative pattern of interactions and 'deviant cases' involving discordance between nurse and parent.


A total of 168 minutes of video-recorded conversation from 10 immunization sessions provided strong 'typical' pattern and equally striking 'deviant cases'. Parents mostly treated nurses as 'experts' and accepted asymmetry of knowledge over medical matters. Nurses demonstrated skilful strategies in delineating their area of medical expertise from areas in which patients are expert-their knowledge of themselves and their children.


While patient centredness and empowering patients are contemporary goals of primary health care delivery, these attributes are not precisely defined. Patients may wish to be informed, but many trust their health professionals to direct their decision making. Although health professionals may impart as much knowledge as they can, asymmetry of knowledge remains. However, patients hold expertise beyond their clinical situation in the social and economic world in which they live.

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