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Under-the-radar dynamics of on-ward management and inter-team communication in a Welsh hospital

This research project is available across the ESRC Wales (DTP). Find out more information about the DTP and how to apply.

The project will investigate the mechanisms by which multiple communicative goals are attained in realtime hospital management.

The project builds on Cardiff University Centre for Language and Communication Research (CLCR) and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board's (ABUHB) ongoing collaborative research demonstrating that effective communication in hospital settings is not, as suggested in previous research, simply a matter of accurate transmission of medical information and instructions.

Other unrecognised or undervalued achievements are team-building, fostering empathy for staff and patients, and socialisation of new staff into institutional practices. The broad aims of this project, as formulated in conjunction with ABUHB management, are therefore:

  1. to observe in detail the real-time working practices of staff across a ward
  2. to identify effective strategies in both scheduled and spontaneous aspects of information-sharing, decision-making and team-building
  3. to adopt these findings within training and support programmes.

Research questions

The following broad research questions provide a basis for more detailed formulations in discussion with the researcher:

  • How do healthcare practitioners orient their on-ward communication to multiple organisational goals?
  • How is their communication designed to perform the distinct interactional roles necessary to achieve these goals?
  • What are the barriers to communication in multi-team settings and what strategies are employed to overcome these in practice?
  • What features of on-ward communication can serve to transmit and develop an institutional ethos?

Beyond these academic research questions, the following institutionally-driven questions will be addressed:

  • How can academic findings be reformulated and fed back to practitioners?
  • How can these findings be incorporated into training and support materials?


Analysis of key interactional data will be based on an innovative combination of Linguistic Ethnography, Discourse Analysis, and Interactional Sociolinguistics, relating fine-grained analysis of individual communicative events to the wider activities and culture of the hospital as an institution.

The interactional and contextual data will be collected through:

  • Longitudinal observation of on-ward practices with key events digitally recorded (by audio and, where possible, video) and transcribed.
  • Informal dialogue and feedback loops with the full range of participants.
  • Formal meetings with ward staff and senior administrators at key stages in the project.


The following timeline and research milestones are broadly indicative of the PhD project goals:

Year 1

On-ward observation and literature review; specification of methodology.

Year 2

Continued observation; analysis of data; feedback from practitioners; presentations to staff and academics; consultation on training and support.

Year 3

Co-organising interdisciplinary symposium, leading to one academic and one professional journal output; writing up discussion/conclusions; revision and submission.

The timeline will be preceded by a research training Master’s year in the case of a 1+3 award.


The studentship is available in collaboration with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) on either a 1+3 or +3 basis.

The 1+3 studentship provides funding for four years (or part-time equivalent), completing a research training Master’s in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD.

A +3 studentship provides funding for the three years PhD research study only (or part-time equivalent).

Learn more about funding, eligibility and how to apply


Dr Virpi Ylänne

Dr Virpi Ylänne

Senior Lecturer

+44 (0)29 2087 5049
Dr Tereza Spilioti

Dr Tereza Spilioti

Senior Lecturer

+44 (0)29 2087 6041

Programme information

For programme structure, entry requirements and how to apply, visit the Language and Communication programme.

View programme

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