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Locating a geography of nursing: space, place and the progress of geographical thought

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Although traditionally, nursing research has paid little attention to geographical approaches, recent years have witnessed some initial research interest in the dynamic between nursing, space and place. Such research potentially represents the foundations of what may be termed a ‘geography of nursing’. Although, to date, some novel and valuable perspectives have been gained into the spatial features of nursing, no consideration has been given to the theoretical development of, and basis for, a geography of nursing. Furthermore, no consideration has been given to philosophical heritage; the treatment of space and place in human geography and the insights that this may provide for the new field of research. In this context, this paper provides an historical review of geographical research and traces the evolution of how space and place have been conceptualized and operationalized by it. The paper outlines the emergence of a health geography subdiscipline and its own changing and diverse perspectives. In the final section, the central themes of the current geography of nursing are considered and, reflecting back on the theoretical concerns of contemporary human geography, the paper outlines some philosophies and theories on which future geography of nursing could be based. From a disciplinary perspective, one potential role of the geography of nursing is argued to be the maintenance of the relationship between health geography and mainstream health service and medical concerns, but in a place-sensitive, patient-sensitive and qualitative form.
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Keywords: geography of nursing; health geography; medical geography; place; space

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-10-01

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