Scand J Caring Sci; 2011; 25; 653–660
Paraprofessionals and caring practice: negotiating the use of self
Responding to increasing concerns with the quality of care in both Sweden and England, this paper explores the way in which caring practice emerges out of the interplay between personal and social agency. Working from a socio-cultural perspective, results from an English and a Swedish study conducted independently of each other were used to explore the construction of caring practice. The English study drew on practice observations and four interviews conducted at monthly intervals collecting data on life history and critical incidents. The Swedish study drew on group interviews and two interviews with each participant – one at the beginning of an in-service recognition of prior learning process and one at the end. Interview data was transcribed and thematic analysis identified common themes. The findings from both studies suggest that caring practice involves the intentional use of self to build relationships, understand users and provide personalised interventions. Although practice presented as personal and individualistic, it took place within an organisational context requiring co-configured activity. The practitioners' negotiations with work teams were often conflictual or contested. It is argued that workplaces may enhance caring practice by enabling affordances for the use of self through the design of in-house training programmes, supervision and the organisation of teams. Reflexive practice may also be an important part of the effective use of self.