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Nursing on the medical ward

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PARKER JM. Nursing Inquiry 2004; 11: 210 –217

Nursing on the medical ward

This paper considers some issues confronting contemporary medical nursing and draws upon psychoanalytic theories to investigate some seemingly straightforward and taken-for-granted areas of medical nursing work. I am arguing that the everyday work of medical nurses in caring for patients is concerned with bringing order to and placing boundaries around inherently unsettled and destabilized circumstances. I am also arguing that how nurses manage and organize their work in this regard stems from traditional practices that tend to be taken for granted and not explicitly thought about. It is therefore difficult for nurses to consider changing these practices that often have negative consequences for the nurses.

I want to examine the impact upon nurses of the consequences of three taken-for-granted nursing practices: (i) the tendency of nurses to confine their reactions to what is going on so as to present a caring self; (ii) the tendency of nurses in their everyday talk to patients to confine, limit and minimize meaning; and (iii) the tensions and ambiguities that emerge for nurses in the policing function they perform in confining patients to the bed or the ward. Negative consequences on nurses of these practices potentially include stress and confusion regarding their ability to care for patients; an undervaluing of nursing skills; and a deterioration in the nurse–patient relationship. Clinical supervision for medical nurses is proposed as a means of facilitating greater understanding of the nature of nurses’ relationships with patients and the complex dimensions of their medical nursing role.
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Keywords: clinical supervision; medical nursing; nursing work; psychoanalytic theory

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-12-01

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