Klara Bertils defends her PhD work

2022-06-17

On June 10th, 2022, our ligüist Ph.D. student Klara Bertils was awarded the Ph.D. degree after the defense of her thesis on the social and interactional dimensions of fever and body temperature between patients and health professionals.

Fever, or elevated body temperature, is a general sign of inflammation and possible infection. Mentioned in ancient medical texts and regularly associated with diseases throughout centuries, fever is nowadays considered a symptom regularly measured in clinical settings. Unlike other measurable signs of infection like elevated white blood cell count or the presence of antibodies, fever is physically experienced by the patient and can be measured at home. 

In this thesis, which belongs to the overarching project of Antibiotic Prescription in Swedish Primary Care Consultations: a Multidisciplinary Conversation Analysis Study, Klara uses the theoretical and methodological framework of Conversation Analysis (CA) to explore how fever is talked about, measured, and negotiated between patients and healthcare professionals. To this end, Klara started her thesis work by gathering a collection of videos where body temperature was measured, belonging to the Uppsala University Interaction Corpus (UUIC). The UUIC is a series of video recordings of primary care consultations with adult patients presenting with respiratory tract infection symptoms.

Klara worked with the collection of videos showing natural interactions between patients and healthcare workers, analyzing how people achieve social activities and intersubjectivity through their actions. Her analysis explored how co-participants relate to one another in a multimodal understanding of language and social interaction.

Structured as a monograph thesis, Klara presented three main analytical chapters.  First looking into how participants talk about fever when presenting their reasons for seeking care, secondly understanding how measuring body temperature is used during the primary care visit, and third investigating how participants handle the results of the measurements.

The conversation analysis of these interactions showed that both patients and healthcare professionals treat fever as an urgent matter and worthy of exploration at the primary care visit, and it might even be posed as a component of a candidate diagnosis. Klara also shows that during the visits, patients and nurses worked together in the transition of the patient as a subject (when presenting their situation) to the patient as an object when the temperature is going to be measured. When the measurement results are exposed, patients can both present and be presented with knowledgeable positions regarding the results' meanings. In some cases, patients challenged the health professional's interpretation of the results by suggesting another way of understanding the measurement. 

Now-doctor Bertils celebrating the good news about her sucessful defense.

We congratulate Klara on her thesis and look forward to her next steps in the lingüistics field.

Want to learn more about Dr. Bertils's work? Check out these links:

Last modified: 2022-06-28