Wandering the Wards: Ward ‘rules’ and the consequences for people living with dementia

An East Midlands Medical Sociology Group Event

9 February 2021 (11am–12pm)

About the Event

You are invited to attend an online seminar organised by the East Midlands Medical Sociology Group.


  • Dr Katie Featherstone, Reader in Medical Sociology, University of Cardiff

This paper examines everyday cultures of care in hospital wards and the consequences for both people living with dementia and ward staff. It explores institutional and ward strategies in the care of this significant patient group at the bedside. Across these wards, the rehearsal and duplication of a remarkably stable interactional performance was observed during the routines of bedside care. Across these encounters, ward staff communicated and reinforced the ‘rules’ of the ward.

This hospital ethnography was funded by two National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) projects[i] examining specific features of everyday care for people living with dementia (the phenomenon of “resistance” to care and continence care) within acute wards in eight hospitals across England and Wales. The wider ethnography examines hospital cultures of care for people living with dementia.

This paper illustrates key findings within the monograph Wandering the Wards[ii]. Drawing on Goffman’s examination of the “total institution” the paper explores institutional expectations and the interactional patterns of care at the bedside to provide ways of uncovering aspects of the social standing and understandings of people living with dementia, and the recognition, attribution and stigma of this diagnostic category during an acute admission.

Katie Featherstone is Reader in Sociology and Medicine, School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University. Katie’s current NIHR funded ethnographic programme of research examines institutional cultures of care. The goal is to improve the quality and humanity of care people living with dementia receive during a hospital admission. This builds on Katie’s established body of research examining the social impacts of genetics and genomics. What unites her approach in both fields is the examination of the social contexts and consequences of biomedicine. Her work is recognized within public policy, NHS, national media, public discourse, and arts policy.

Her latest monograph Wandering the Wards (with Dr Andy Northcott, Senior Lecturer, School of Allied Health Sciences, De Montfort University) is now published as part of the Routledge Studies in Health and Medical Anthropology series. It provides a detailed and unflinching ethnographic examination of everyday life within the contemporary hospital, focusing on the everyday care of the largest patient group, people living with dementia. This is an open access publication available free to download via: Kindle, Google Books and Taylor and Francis.

i Funded by the NIHR HS&RD researcher-led awards 13/10/80 and 15/136/67.

ii Featherstone, K. and Northcott, A., 2020. Wandering the Wards: An Ethnography of Hospital Care and its Consequences for People Living with Dementia


This event is free to attend, however, booking is essential.  Full joining instructions will be circulated to delegates prior to the event.

Contact the Organisers

For general enquiries please contact Jessica Turner.

For academic enquiries please contact Prof Nicky Hudson