Challenging ‘Colour Time’: A Practice and Narrative Approach to Organising Waiting Time in Hospitals

Anne Reff Pedersen*, Mette Brehm Johansen, Vibeke Kristine Scheller

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

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Waiting time in hospitals is often studied from one of two perspectives: a distributed resource in hospitals or a potential steering and measuring factor. In this article, waiting time in an emergency department is examined from a practice and a narrative perspective, placing time at the core of our analysis. Our article explores patient waiting time as a local practice that builds on the temporal structuring that affects how waiting time is regulated by both normal clock time and event time—as interpretative time. We also consider how individual narratives in situated spaces allow for negotiations, but we also present isolated time experiences. The empirical data derive from an organisational ethnographic study of a newly introduced triage system for incoming patients at an emergency department in Denmark. The analysis shows how waiting time is organised in the formal visitation system as ‘colour time’ based on the negotiations of the health‐care professional as at the ‘right time’ and as the patient's individual illness experiences with ‘wasting time’. The findings indicate the importance of the unequal relationship between clock time and event time and the different contextual situations affecting the possibilities of organising.
TidsskriftSociology of Health and Illness
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)829-843
Antal sider15
StatusUdgivet - maj 2021

Bibliografisk note

Published online: 08 March 2021


  • Emergency care
  • Health-care professionals
  • Narratives
  • Patients
  • Practice
  • Triage system
  • Waiting time