Controlled by Knowledge : A Study of two Clinical pathways in Mental Healthcare

Abstract: Standardisation of professional work is a major policy concern to ensure quality and efficiency of services and a number of hospitals are now focusing on the use of clinical pathways as an important tool to standardise their work. This study sheds light on the processes set in motion when notions of standardisation meet local practice. In order to gain insight into what clinical pathways mean for professional work in mental health care, the focus of the study was to explore the contexts in which standardisation by “rule production” takes place.Two empirical cases from Norwegian mental health care show how dedicated professionals are in charge of carrying out the standardisation work, strongly influenced by a steering framework of defined governmental policies where employee involvement and responsibility ensured loyalty to the idea.  Along with a “package” of ideas, new bodies and techniques, clinical pathways contribute to the institutionalisation of prima facie knowledge in demonstrating that evidence basing is linked to steering and control of employees.Thus, professional autonomy is threatened in an insidious way: through the institutionalisation of evidence-based knowledge as ‘prima facie’ knowledge in combination with professionals who standardise and control their own work. The thesis therefore concludes that the control of professional work has now become a complex and sophisticated process where professional work is “controlled by knowledge”.