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The intraprofessional and interprofessional relations of neurorehabilitation nurses: a negotiated order perspective


  • Karen-Lee Miller BA MA MSW,

    Research Associate, PhD Candidate, Corresponding author
    1. Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • Toronto Rehabilitation Institute - University Health Network, Ontario, Canada
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  • Pia C. Kontos BA MA PhD

    Research Scientist
    1. Toronto Rehabilitation Institute - University Health Network, Ontario, Canada
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Correspondence to K.-L. Miller: e-mail:



To report a study of the negotiation practices of neurorehabilitation nurses with one another and with allied health professionals to understand nursing relations.


Negotiated order theory offers a promising theoretical lens with which to explore negotiation between nurses and other professionals. This study is the first to apply the perspective to nurse–nurse and nurse–allied health professional relations.


The study is a secondary analysis of findings from a multi-site arts-based intervention to improve patient-centred neurorehabilitation practice.


Interviews and ethnographic observations were conducted (2008–2011) in two neurorehabilitation units in Ontario, Canada. Participants (n = 31) included registered and practical nurses, nurse leaders, and allied health professionals from physical, occupational, and recreational therapy, speech language pathology, and social work.


Neurorehabilitation nursing is characterized by heavy workload, high patient acuity, and poor interprofessional collaboration. This practice context was negotiated by nurses through two strategies: (1) intraprofessional collegialism, accomplished through tactics including task and knowledge sharing, emotional support, coercive threats, and suppression of dissension; and (2) vying for an autonomous essential nursing role in interprofessional practice, accomplished by claiming unique nursing knowledge based on 24/7 nursing proximity, the expansion of the division of professional labour with allied health professionals and modifying physical therapy care plans.


The intraprofessional context and negotiations therein were linked in significant ways to interprofessional negotiations. Understanding this complexity has important implications for improving patient safety and interprofessional practice interventions.