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The purpose of this one year's research on two hospital wards was to explore the perceptions of nurses concerning their jobs. Specifically, the focus of this paper is on how nurses' perceptions were influenced by their interaction with physicians, singling out both the stratification system within the hospital and the structure of the two wards as a major source of conflict. Physicians are viewed as being ‘significant others’ in the nurse's definition of self and therefore physicians, involved in daily interaction with nurses, are included in the study in order that their perceptions of the nurse's job may be seen to influence the perceptions which nurses have of themselves.

An assumption, basic to this study, is that physicians are in a dominant position within the hospital and nurses are subordinates in the organization. A ward comparison viewed the relative power position of doctors at various levels in the medical hierarchy (such as clinical clerks, interns, residents and specialists) as affecting the amount of agreement and understanding that existed between nurses' and physicians' perceptions of the nurse's job.