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Re-imagining Supervision: reflections on experience, theory and policy

Date: 15 June 2011 Time: 9.00am - 5.00pm

Venue: Bowland North Seminar Room 23

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Centre for Science Studies and School of Health & Medicine

In healthcare as in many domains of practice, supervision is considered to be the fundamental means by which the quality and safety of care, and the maintenance of high ethical standards, are ensured. It is seen as the route through which expertise can be demonstrated, communicated, appropriated, and ultimately embodied. However, the ways in which supervision is both practiced and prescribed are vital to its success in terms of cultivating 'best practice'. Lack of time, tightly prescriptive frameworks and an over-cautious approach by supervisors can constrain learning and undermine the development of an experiential way of knowing, one that exists in indigenous ways of working.

This workshop builds on the work of mental health nurse Tracy Dryden who died shortly before the submission of her PhD thesis. Her ethnographic doctoral study explored in minute detail the processes which could both support or weaken nurses' confidence in their own professional knowledge practices. These processes could be seen in action at the professional level where Evidence Based Medicine dictated a rigid application of therapeutic techniques; at the organisational level where clinical supervision became a requirement - seen as a box to tick - but when sensitively practiced it could powerfully endorse the developing expertise; and at the level of individual or local practice where nurses' disillusion with 'purist' applications of evidence urged them to practice more flexibly. Her thesis elucidated the risks incurred when 'Evidence' overwrites personal expertise; risks which play out in the clinical encounter between mental health service users and practitioners. She highlighted the mismatch between the factors driving service development and the service users these changes were meant to benefit. Dr Dryden (whose doctorate was awarded posthumously) showed how supervisory practice held a strong but often invisible power to crystallise and sanction the developing expertise of learners in their adaptation of given therapeutic techniques.

Following a presentation of the key findings of Tracy Dryden's work, this workshop will explore diverse manifestations of supervision, how these have been shaped, the effects they engender, and the possibilities for re-imagining the practice. It is important to draw from a wide range of settings in health and social care where supervision is practiced to examine and re-work supervision conceptually. Such settings might include: nursing, medicine, social work, and professions allied to medicine. Practitioners and researchers from these and other fields are welcome.p { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }a:link { }

To register please go to:

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Dawn Goodwin, Maggie Mort, Celia Roberts

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Medical Education, Centre for Science Studies, Sociology

Keywords: Ethnography, Governance, Health, Informal care, Knowledge, Science and technology studies, Sociology


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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