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HRM Seminar Series

Heads above the Parapet: identity construction and enactment in midwifery clinical leadership

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Presented by Bernie Divall, Research Fellow, School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham

  • From: Wednesday 19 February 2014, 1 pm
  • To: Wednesday 19 February 2014, 2 pm
  • Location: N31, Newton building, Main Entrance, Nottingham Trent University, City Campus, Goldsmith Street, Nottingham, NG1 4BU
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Event details

Presented by Bernie Divall, Research Fellow, School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham


The presentation's subject is identity construction and enactment, specifically the complex interplay between individuals, professional groups and organisational structures in the context of NHS clinical leadership.

Clinical leadership has been advocated as a solution to the problem of leadership in the NHS, where historically a hierarchical, transactional model has been applied to both development and enactment of leadership. However, the construction of a clinical leader identity is not unproblematic, with challenges around professional-managerial hybrid roles for individual clinical leaders; credibility with professional group and general managerial colleagues; and a lack of contextualised development and career structure at organisational level.

With identity clearly constructed and enacted at individual, group and structural levels, this study uses role and social identity theories to explore the complex interplay between the various areas of analysis.

The study in contextualised within midwifery, a professional group which has struggled to establish a distinct identity in the NHS. A combination of participant observation, narrative interviews, and online forum interaction was used to gain insight into the development and enactment experiences of clinical leadership from both sides of the clinician-leader divide. I was able to add a personal narrative to the study, due to my own identity transition from clinical midwife to business school academic.

The study concludes that attention must be paid to the significance of individual, group and organisational structure interplay, if clinical leadership is to be effectively embedded within the NHS.

About the author

Bernie Divall worked first as a musician, before training as a midwife. She then undertook a Masters in research methods, before moving on to doctoral studies, funded by the ESRC and NHS East Midlands, looking at clinical leadership in the NHS. Bernie began her doctoral work at Nottingham University Business School and later moved to Warwick Business School where she recently completed the writing up of her thesis. In January of this year, Bernie took up a position as midwifery postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham.

Please book your place by emailing Daniel King.

Booking information

Please book your place by emailing Daniel King.

Location details


N31, Newton building, Main Entrance


Nottingham Trent University
City Campus
Goldsmith Street

Past event

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