Examining Role Change in Primary Care Practice

Nicole Isaacson, Jodi Summers Holtrop, Deborah Cohen, Robert L. Ferrer, M. Diane Mckee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: While experts suggest that primary care needs far-reaching transformation that includes adding or reconfiguring roles to improve patient care, little is known about how role change occurs in practice settings. Methods This was a cross-case comparative analysis of 3 projects designed to improve health behavior counseling in primary care practices by adding to or changing clinical support staff roles. Qualitative data (site visits notes, grantee reports, interviews with grantees, and online diary entries) were analyzed to examine instances of role change in depth, using role change theory as an organizing framework. Results Practice team members had greater success taking on new roles when patients valued the services provided. Often, it was easier to a hire a new person into a new role rather than have an existing practice member shift responsibilities. This was because new personnel had the structural autonomy, credibility, and organizational support needed to develop new responsibilities and routines. Conclusion: As primary care delivery systems are redesigned in ways that rely on new roles to deliver care, understanding how to effectively add or change staff roles is essential and requires attention to patients’, practice members’, and institutions’ support for new roles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-200
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Primary Care & Community Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • health behavior change
  • primary care practice teams
  • role change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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