LaTonya J. Trotter
Assistant Professor of Sociology
How do changes in the organization of medical work both reflect and shape social inequality?
I am an ethnographer and sociologist of medicine whose work explores the relationship between changes in the organization of medical work and the reproduction of racial, economic, and gender inequality. The empirical terrain of these explorations ranges from intra-professional negotiations between medicine and nursing to organizational shifts in older adult care. In making connections between how we institutionalize medical work and how we organize social life, my work speaks to health policy concerns as well as to broader questions of social inequality.
My first book More than Medicine: Nurse practitioners and the problems they solve for patients, organizations, and the state, investigates the rise of the nurse practitioner in the health care encounter (forthcoming, Cornell University Press). Nurse practitioners have been put forth as a professional solution to the rising costs of medical care and the scarcity of physician labor. In More than Medicine, I investigate the shape of that solution through ethnographic attention to a group of NPs as they cared for 400 African-American older adults living with poor health and limited means. I illustrate how these NPs practiced an inclusive form of work that included not only medical problems, but the kinds of social and coordination problems that often accompany poverty. In solving an expanded terrain of problems from inside the clinic, these NPs were not only solving a broader set of concerns for their patients, they managed "difficult patients" for their employer and "difficult people" for the state. I develop an understanding of not only how these NP's embodied nursing practice, but how this embodiment was itself the grounds for larger contests over our collective obligation to care for the medically and socially vulnerable.