Prior to volunteering in a southern United States hospital setting I had only my preconceptions of hierarchy in medicine, but this hospital had a different reality. At the hospital, I noticed a decreased sensitivity to the hierarchical structure of medical professionals in the hospital. I was able to learn that these professionals intermingled very well. As a volunteer on a floor, I could not even differentiate between the different professions, as they all wore similar uniforms and interacted with everyone on the floor. While participating in this volunteer program, I noticed how the health professionals at Arkansas Children’s Hospital used tolerance, patience, and empathy to understand the struggles and hardships of co-workers of different professions notably more than they did in hospitals I have volunteered at in Michigan. I was able to develop an appreciation for this style of interactions among medical professionals in a hospital setting and notice how these interactions positively impacted the daily lives of those professionals and their patients. From this experience, I discovered that this regional difference in hierarchical systems in hospitals was significant and by putting myself in the situation of these health professionals both emotionally and physically, I can better understand their feelings and motivations; this will help me to study this area of interest. Due to the large number of GVSU students seeking entry into one of the health-related professions at various levels of profession, and due to the increasingly large medical community in the Grand Rapids area, this study will be of interest to the University and West Michigan communities.

Not many people understand, much less have studied the idea of a hierarchical structure within the medical field. A few areas of interest include regional differences, generational differences, and specialty differences in hierarchical structure. To further investigate, a total of five health professionals of varying practices were interviewed on their thoughts on this controversial issue. These professionals spanned a variety of occupations, as well as generational and regional backgrounds. They were interviewed using a non-biased, multiple-choice questionnaire on their opinion and experience with this issue. From this data, we can infer the general opinion of medical professionals, and further analyze their responses based on their gender, occupation, and generational background. The objectives of this study are to examine the different forms of hierarchy among health professionals and discover where and why these hierarchies do or do not exist; and to examine the effects of these relationships on the medical professionals themselves as well as their patients.

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