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Nursing Home Physicians Discuss Caring for Elderly Residents: An Exploratory Study

  • Albert Banerjee (a1), Robert James (a2), Margaret McGregor (a3) (a4) and Joel Lexchin (a2)


Despite the increasing complexity of nursing home care, the role of physicians caring for residents is largely unexplored. This international, exploratory study sought to learn about physicians’ roles, responsibilities, and tasks as well as investigate the unique qualities of medical practice in nursing homes. We conducted interviews with 18 physicians, who reported making important contributions to the quality of resident care, including clarifying the goals of care, working to reduce unnecessary medication and hospitalization, as well as contributing to staff education. Nursing home practice involved physicians in networks of relations that were instrumental to the quality of medical care and physicians’ job satisfaction. The importance of these relationships disrupts the oft-drawn boundary between the medical and the social, suggesting that good medical practice depends on good social practice. Reflecting the exploratory nature of the study, we recommend research to better understand and support the relational dimensions of nursing home medicine.

Malgré la complexité croissante des soins en foyers de soins de longue durée, le rôle des médecins dans la prestation des soins aux résidents a été peu étudié. Cette étude exploratoire internationale visait à mieux comprendre les rôles des médecins, leurs responsabilités et leurs tâches, ainsi qu’à explorer les caractéristiques uniques de la pratique médicale dans les foyers de soins de longue durée. Des entrevues ont été menées avec 18 médecins. Ces médecins ont mentionné qu’ils contribuaient fortement à la qualité des soins pour les résidents, en clarifiant les objectifs des soins, en prenant des mesures pour réduire les hospitalisations et les prescriptions de médicaments non nécessaires, et en contribuant à la formation du personnel. Les pratiques en foyers de soins de longue durée impliquaient les médecins au centre de réseaux de relations qui assuraient non seulement une meilleure qualité des soins médicaux, mais aussi une satisfaction professionnelle chez les médecins. L’importance de ces relations est telle qu’elle permettait d’aller au-delà des démarcations traditionnelles entre le domaine médical et le domaine social, et mettait en évidence qu’une bonne pratique médicale implique de bonnes pratiques sociales. Considérant la nature exploratoire de l’étude, les auteurs recommandent que de futures recherches soient menées pour mieux comprendre les dimensions relationnelles associées à la pratique de la médecine en foyers de soins de longue durée.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à : / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Robert James, M.D. Adjunct Professor School of Health Policy and Management, York University York Lanes, 359A, 4700 Keele St. Toronto, ON M3J 1P3 <>


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The authors thank the physicians interviewed for participating in the study. The research for the study in this article was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada’s Major Collaborative Research Initiative, “Re-Imagining Long-Term Residential Care”, and the writing was supported by a COFAS Marie Curie Fellowship.



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