Jennifer Knights, Part Time PGR

JDaviesNHS administrative work: 'bullshit jobs' or a cage worth unlocking?

The research has three main aims:

  1. To bring to the foreground the voices of the people undertaking administrative work in the NHS, how they experience their roles and the extent to which they consider their work to have or add value.
  2. To better understand the phenomenon of administrative work in the NHS and engage critically with this phenomenon through considering the narratives produced by administrative staff undertaking this work.
  3.  To address the significant research gap regarding those NHS administrative roles which do not involve or have very little direct patient contact.

Supervisors: Mervyn Conroy and Dr. Scott Taylor


Jennifer is currently employed by NHS Education for Scotland as a Specialist Research Lead.

Her previous experience of working in both administrative and managerial roles in the NHS has directly informed her research interests around administrative labour in the context of the NHS business and administration workforce.  


  • Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Research Methods and Skills, School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham. Awarded 2019.
  • MSc Leadership for Health Services Improvement, Health Services Management Centre (HSMC), University of Birmingham. Awarded 2015.
  • BA Politics and Philosophy, University of Sheffield. Awarded 2006.

Research Interests

  • Workforce, Professions, Employment and Labour
  • Health and Social Care
  • Critical perspectives on Leadership
  • Critical Management Studies


Kelly, N., Beaton, L., Knights, J., Stirling, D., West, M. and Young, L. (2023) The practices and beliefs of dental professionals regarding the management of patients taking anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs. BDJ Open 9 (1).

Beaton, L., Knights J., Barnsley, L., Araujo, M., Clarkson, J., Freeman, R., Young, L., Yuan, S. and Humphris, G. (2022). Longitudinal online diaries with dental practitioners and dental care professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic: A trajectory analysis. Frontiers in Oral Health, 3.

Knights, J. and Humphris, G. (2022). Editorial: Beyond the individual: the need for team based and system-wide solutions to support improved mental health in dentistry. Community Dental Health Journal, 39 (2).

Knights, J., Beaton, L., Young, L., Araujo, M., Yuan, S., Clarkson, J., Humphris, G. and Freeman, R. (2022). Uncertainty and Fears Around Sustainability: A Qualitative Exploration of the Emotional Reactions of Dental Practitioners and Dental Care Professionals During COVID-19. Frontiers in Oral Health, 2.

Cousins, M., Patel, K., Araujo, M., Beaton, L., Scott, C., Stirling, D., Young, L. and Knights, J. (2022) A qualitative analysis of dental professionals' beliefs and concerns about providing aerosol generating procedures early in the COVID-19 pandemic. BDJ Open, 8(1).

Freeman, R., Knights, J., Beaton, L., Araujo, M., Yuan, S., Clarkson, J., Young, L. and Humphris, G. (2021). Prediction of emotional exhaustion over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in primary care dental staff: an intensive longitudinal study. BMJ Open, 11(12).

Humphris, G., Knights, J., Beaton, L., Araujo, M., Yuan, S., Clarkson, J., Young, L. and Freeman, R., 2021. Exploring the Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Dental Team: Preparedness, Psychological Impacts and Emotional Reactions. Frontiers in Oral Health, 2.

Rigg, C., Myers, K. and Knights, J., 2021. Public service leadership in a digital future - Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.10963.50723.


‘Good administrative work in the NHS: Making non-clinical staff positively visible’. Presented at the Work Inclusivity Research Centre ‘Good Work event’ hosted by the University of Birmingham in November 2022.

‘Juggler, Mother, Detective: exploring how business support and administrative staff experience their roles within a national health board in Scotland’. Paper presented on Sub-theme 9: Listening to Different Voices – Plurality and Power in Health and Social Care at the 12th International Critical Management Studies Conference: ‘Diversalising and Intern(ation)alising CMS: Places, Spaces, Bodies and Praxistical Theories’ hosted virtually by BML Munjal University, India in December 2021.

‘Digitalizing Public Service Organisations – Implications for managing the interface with service users’. Paper co-presented on Sub-theme 59: The Politics and Ethics of Digitalizing Organizations at the European Group for Organizational Studies Colloquium 2020 hosted virtually by the University of Hamburg.

‘NHS administrative work - ‘bullshit jobs’ or a cage worth unlocking?’ Presented at the Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change Doctoral Conference: ‘The Changing Nature of Work’ hosted by Leeds University Business School in May 2019 and the 11th International Critical Management Studies 2019 conference: 'Precarious Presents, Open Futures' hosted by The Open University.

'‘Don’t ask me I’m just an administrator!’ A Foucauldian take on distributed leadership and Power'. Conference paper presented at the 10th International Organisational Behaviour in Healthcare Conference hosted by Cardiff Business School in 2016 and the International Studying Leadership Conference hosted by Lancaster University Management School in 2018.

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