Social Study In Detail - Hofling et al. (1966)

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Title:

An Experimental Study In The Nurse-Physician Relationship

Author:

Hofling, Brotzman, Dalrymple, Graves & Pierce

Aim:

To investigate whether nurses would obey doctors even when their obedience would mean breaking hospital rules and could possibly endanger the lives of patients.

The researchers were interested to address the question: “How far would the nurses obey the doctor, and what would their reactions be?”. They were interested in their response to an irregular order to administer medication, when this went agains professional standards, as they believed this to be an issue within the profession.

Sample:

22 nurses in 22 hospital wards of America were used for the experiment in the main study. A further 22 nurses 

not in the experiment where interviewed about what they would do in the situation.

Procedure:

A doctor unknown to a nurse would call her by telephone with orders to administer 20mg of a fictional drug named ‘Astroten’ to a patient and that he/she will sign for the medication later. The bottle had been surreptitiously placed in the drug cabinet, but the drug was not on the “approved” list. It was clearly labeled that 10mg was the maximum dose.

The experimental procedure was explained to a group of nurses and nursing students who were asked to predict how many nurses would give the drug to the patient.

Hofling then selected 22 nurses at a hospital in the US for the actual experiment. They were called by an experimenter calling himself ‘Dr. Smith from the psychiatry department’ who said that he would be around to write up the paperwork…

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