Temporal Patient Trajectories: Long Stories in Short Admissions

Vibeke Kristine Scheller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explain how trajectory management in hospitals is challenged by the introduction of accelerated discharge schemes. The patient trajectory is formed by short stays within health-care organizations, which requires a substantial effort for professionals to be successful in clarifying each patient's medical situation. The patients, at the same time, often have complicated illness stories, and professionals only see a limited part of the patient's trajectory.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper is based on extensive ethnographic studies in a newly established cardiac day unit introducing same-day discharge schemes for patients with ischemic and arrhythmic heart disease.
The findings demonstrate that the patient trajectory becomes a “temporal patient trajectory” and encounters a short-term reality, where tensions arise between admission time and the trajectory as a whole. In managing temporal patient trajectories, formal organizing and patient experiences intersect in events that emerge from conversations and span past, present and future in relation to patient treatment. Professionals engage in articulation work to maintain coherence by allowing patients to hold different events together over time.
Originality/value: The paper provides new insights into the challenges of managing trajectories in same-day discharge schemes where the pressure to move quickly and ensure patient discharge is intense. The paper offers a novel theoretical perspective on trajectory management as an ongoing temporal process. The analysis displays temporal tensions between patient experiences and the accelerated discharge scheme and how professionals manage to overcome these tensions by bridging the patient's long illness story and the short trajectory within the cardiac day unit.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Health, Organization and Management
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)69-86
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 16 August 2021.


  • Trajectories
  • Articulation work
  • Same-day discharge
  • Temporality
  • Ethnography

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