Professional roles in a medical telephone helpline

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This paper deals with the professional roles of medical advisors working in a medical help line. The analysis focuses on telephone calls with questions about the swine flu epidemic in 2009. A number of calls have been collected from the help line database and analyzed with the purpose of examining the advisors’ role shifts and adaption to the changes of the situation and the callers’ needs. This study is mainly instructed by the concept of hybridity as a main characteristic of counseling as an interaction type. Different sub-types, i.e. interaction formats, have been identified, connected to the shifting contexts of the call. Communicative tasks performed during a call can, to some degree, be regarded as typical subtypes in a modern medical help line. Phenomena such as hybridity and role shifts are thus viewed as reflections of the participants’ roles and their adaption to context, and as such a necessary trait of an advisor’s professional communicative competence.


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