Discourses of middle-managers on cross-boundary collaboration in health and social care

Sandra Schruijer, Anneli Hujala, sanne laulainen, h taskinen, Charlotte Klinga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the implementation of integrated care, the role of managers is important and their mutual collaboration should be addressed more visibly. The purpose of this study was to investigate how cross-boundary collaboration is constructed in the discourse of middle-level managers in health and social care.

The study was based on a discursive approach. Group discussions with three groups of Finnish middle managers (n = 39) were analyzed using discourse analysis.

Five ways of talking about cross-boundary collaboration were identified, labeled “ideal”, “structure”, “defence”, “money” and “support” discourses. In the ideal discourse, cross-boundary collaboration appeared as a “good thing” and is self-evident. Structural discourse defined managers as passive actors in self-sustaining entities. Defensive discourse highlighted the problems of cross-boundary collaboration and the hierarchy within the health and social sectors. Financial discourse constituted the ultimate obstacle to successful cross-boundary collaboration, and both strengthened and explained defensive discourse. Supportive discourse portrayed other managers as partners and as an important resource.

Research limitations/implications
Cross-boundary collaboration can be experienced as a resource, helping managers cope with their workload. However, identification of and continuous attention to challenges at macro, meso and micro levels of integrated care is crucial for successful collaboration. Thus, critical discussion of collaboration needs to be given space.

The study design and discursive approach highlights the power of language and give voice to middle managers who are key actors when implementing integrated care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-215
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Integrated Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • s Integrated care
  • Cross-boundary collaboration
  • Health care
  • Social care
  • Middle manager
  • Discourse


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