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Rethinking theatre in modern operating rooms

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Abstract:

RILEY R and MANIAS E. Nursing Inquiry 2005; 12: 2–9

Rethinking theatre in modern operating rooms

Metaphor is a means through which a widely accepted meaning of a word is used in a different context to add understanding that would otherwise be difficult to conceive. Through etymological and metaphorical associations, we contend that aspects of ‘theatre’ are still relevant in the modern operating rooms and that the use of dramaturgical metaphors can add another layer of understanding about the social reality in this setting. We begin by exploring the historical roots and derivation of the word theatre as it applied to anatomical dissection and surgery. Briefly, we touch on the work of Erving Goffman and examine how his work has been used by others to explore aspects of operating room nursing. Then, drawing on data from a postmodern ethnographic study that has been used to examine communication in operating room nursing, four dramaturgical metaphors are used to illustrate the argument. They are drama, the script and learning the lines, the show must go on, and changing between back stage and front stage. To conclude, the small amount of previously published literature on this topic is compared and contrasted, and the relevance of using dramaturgical metaphors to understand modern operating rooms is discussed. Being able to distinguish between the inherent drama in operating room work and the dramatic realisation of individuals who work within, can help operating room nurses to think differently about, and perhaps re-evaluate their social situation and how they function within it.

Keywords: metaphor; nursing; operating rooms; operating theatres

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1800.2005.00246.x

Affiliations: School of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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