Boundary encroachment and task delegation: clinical pharmacists on the medical team



The sociological literature on pharmacy is sparse, relative to that on physicians and nurses, especially in light of recent changes in the nature of health care and pharmacy's expanded ‘clinical’ role. Moreover, some of this literature presents contradictory perceptions of the clinical pharmacy role; some are perceiving it as encroaching on physicians' role boundaries, while others perceive its few new tasks to be delegated. This article is based on extended participant observation of clinical pharmacists in two northeastern teaching hospitals in the U.S. Data are presented on the clinical tasks the pharmacists performed, the potential boundary conflicts they posed for other members of the medical team, the resolutions of these conflicts, and the role boundaries perceived by relevant participants. From this analysis it is argued that the literature on pharmacy's boundary encroachment is not so much contradictory as incomplete. Implications for pharmacy and the analysis of role boundaries is discussed in conclusion.