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The Construction of Career Aspirations among Healthcare Support Workers: Beyond the Rational and the Mundane?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article numberIRJ12245
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Early online date18 Feb 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Feb 2019

King's Authors


This article engages with a literature that views the limited career aspirations of low-paid, low-status workers as a reasonable response tomaterial and structural constraints. Based on four hospital trust cases studies, the article contests this view, revealing how healthcare support workers in NHS England have retained the cognitive capacity to override such constraints to develop a strong and authentic career goal to become a nurse. This goal is acknowledged by the healthcare support workers themselves as unlikely to be achieved and is therefore presented as a flight from rationality. Its emergence is explained by workplace interactions that allow such an ambition to become taken-for-granted. The article deepens understanding of career ambitions amongst
low-paid, low-status workers, while adding weight to a literature suggesting that career aspirations can be driven by values and norms, not only by a means-end rationality.

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