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Medicine in the Wild: Conducting Ethnographic Studies of Medicine in Action
A drawing of a hospital building
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medical sociology

How to Cite

Menchik, Daniel. (2023) 2023. “Medicine in the Wild: Conducting Ethnographic Studies of Medicine in Action”. TRAILS: Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology, May. Washington DC: American Sociological Association.


This course is an introduction to methods and practices of studying how we moderns organize care in the hospital, and ultimately produce and respond to facts about the people who move through it. The aim is to ground students in the foundational ethnographic literature in these areas, focusing on the relationships between theory and data, and between...

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Subject Area(s):
Medical Sociology
Resource Type(s):
Class Level(s):
College 300, College 400
Class Size(s):
Medium, Small

Usage Notes

This course is for undergraduates, but I believe it is also suitable for graduate students.

I believe that these courses are most beneficial for students when taught back-to-back. If only one semester is possible, then I would argue the most beneficial semester is the ethnographic one.

The instructor is responsible for gaining...

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Learning Goals and Assessments

Learning Goal(s):

  1. Consider how taken-for-granted medical problems are developed by professionals and organizations.
  2. Explain how professionals and semi-professionals coordinate work processes.
  3. Interpret the divergent expectations on physicians that lead to work-related difficulties.
  4. Understand the hospital as an environment involving competing interests for governing patient care, and consider how these influences are resolved in the delivery of care.
  5. Evaluate how organizational changes in the evaluation, reimbursement, and training of physicians will influence relationships in the hospital.
  6. Identify the relationship between a patient’s medical treatments and a hospital’s policies, sequences of care, structures of interaction among professionals.
  7. Critically evaluate the merits and plausibility of various reforms proposed to improve medicine.
  8. Learn concepts that you will be able to draw upon when you enter healthcare settings and seek to understand the social organization of these venues.
  9. Learn to structure and carry out an ethnographic research project in the hospital.

Goal Assessment(s):

  1. Students will propose a research project based on their understanding of the literature on the hospital venue in which they will volunteer.
  2. Students will prepare fieldnotes based on their fieldwork trips.

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