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A discursive exploration of the practices that shape and discipline nurses’ responses to postoperative delirium

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KJORVEN M, RUSH K and HOLE R. Nursing Inquiry 2011; 18: 325–335A discursive exploration of the practices that shape and discipline nurses’ responses to postoperative delirium

Although delirium is classified as a medical emergency, it is often not treated as such by health care providers. The aim of this study was to critically examine, through a poststructural, Foucauldian concept of discourse, the language practices and discourses that shape and discipline nurses' care of older adults with postoperative delirium (POD) with a purpose to question accepted nursing practice. The study was based on data collected from face‐to‐face, in‐depth, personal interviews with six nurses who work on an acute postoperative patient care unit. Five analytic readings of the data identified two prominent discourses at work in nursing practice which influenced the care of patients with POD. These were identified as discourses of legitimacy/illegitimacy and discourses of nursing work. Through the process of poststructural analysis it became evident that one overriding discourse – the biomedical/scientific discourse – served to direct, legitimize and govern all other discourses. The findings of this study have implications for nursing knowledge and practice, length of hospital stay and improved patient outcomes. This study builds on previous work and is the first study to conduct a discourse analysis illuminating nurses’ responses to POD through comparison with other acute medical emergencies from a poststructural perspective.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Interior Health, Kelowna, British Columbia 2: University of British Columbia, Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada

Publication date: December 1, 2011


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