This article examines the practice of doctors and nurses to invoke the categories of age, sex, class, ethnicity, and/or lifestyle factors when discussing individual patients and patient groups. In what situations are such references explicitly made, and what does this practice accomplish? The material consists of field notes from a cardiology clinic in Sweden, and a theory of descriptive practice guided the analysis. When professionals describe patients, discuss decisions, or explain why a patient is ill, age, sex, class, ethnicity, and/or lifestyle serve as contextualization cues, often including widespread results from epidemiological research about groups of patients at higher or lower risk for cardiac disease. These categories work as shortcut reasoning to nudge interpretations in a certain direction, legitimize decisions, and strengthen arguments. In general, studying the descriptions of patients/clients/students provides an entrance to professional methods of reasoning, including their implicit moral assumptions.
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).