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Abstract

Communication between doctors, nurses and patients has been the focus of social scientific research since the past few decades. Their communication patterns determine how efficiently healthcare can be delivered to society and consequently the job satisfaction of healthcare workers which is important to ensure retention of the doctor and nurse populations. The relationship between doctors and patients have evolved since the time of Hippocrates, from a paternalistic relationship to a collaborative relationship in contemporary society. In light of these transitions in the relationship dynamics between physicians, nurses and patients, the state of West Bengal, India, is witnessing another drift in this relationship – violence. Incidents of assault against physicians and nurses from relatives and family members of patients have become frequent both in the pre-pandemic and COVID-19 eras. This paper endeavors to unfurl the covert sociological factors that contribute to the waning of the relationship between healthcare workers and wider society, of which violence is only a symptom. The habitus of the doctors, nurses, and patients were found to be structured by the insufficiency of healthcare resource allocation. This insufficiency generated the foundation for structural violence which was brought forward through respondent narratives. Through the lens of structuralism, the remote agents (healthcare policy framers and administrators) responsible for the broader structural forces that impede the smooth flow of healthcare were recognized. It was inferred that all three groups are partly oblivious to these forces and direct their dissatisfaction and consequent hostility (especially patient acquaintances) towards each other instead of targeting the structural agents. Finally, an analysis of power flow dynamics helps debunk the notion that doctors are the ultimate centers of power in the hospital settings and identifies the ways in which patients and nurses also exert power on the doctors, and on each other. It is hoped that this deconstruction of the workplace interactions and their violent consequences can help develop methods for improving the doctor, nurse, and patient relationship, and mitigating the violence to enable smooth delivery of healthcare.

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