Title of ArticleEngagement: a critique of the concept and its application to person-centred care
Type of ArticleSpecial Issue Paper
Author/sJan Dewing and Brendan McCormack
ReferenceVolume 5, Special Issue on Person-centredness, Article 6
Date of PublicationSeptember 2015
KeywordsAbsorption, dedication, engagement, flourishing, person-centredness, vigour, workplace culture

Background: Engagement is being more frequently and widely referred to in person-centred practice research and scholarship, and likewise in practice development, without any clear definition.

Aims and objectives: To present a summary discussion on engagement in the context of person-centred practice and research, and to offer a working definition.

Methods: The critique in this paper was informed by a focused literature review of 30 publications from the field of positive organisational scholarship and a hand search of policy reports from the past five years.

Findings/results: Engagement, as a predictor of effectiveness, is supported by various researchers’ theoretical and empirical work. The definition of engagement from positive organisational scholarship offers a complementary empirical starting point on which researchers in person-centred practice research can build. Current definitions have limitations for care settings as they only apply to workers rather than including service users, and they privilege cognitive knowledge and/or psychological processes. We therefore recommend a revised definition for use in person-centred practice research.

Conclusions: A revised definition that balances different ways of knowing and can be used with all people is proposed in this paper. However, further research is needed to explore what engagement is, what it looks like in different types of workplace cultures and what it offers person-centred practice.
Implications for practice:

  • Engagement requires and leads to enhanced vigour, dedication and absorption
  • Other outcomes of engagement are energy and vitality – necessary for personal, team/group and workplace culture development
  • Engagement is an intrapersonal, interpersonal and social/group process, and an outcome that promotes enhanced engagement, learning and transformation (that is, thriving and flourishing)
  • Engagement is a short-term process and outcome and needs continuous nurturing in all persons
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