Maths for medications: an analytical exemplar of the social organization of nurses' knowledge

Authors: Dyjur, Louise; Rankin, Janet; Lane, Annette

Source: Nursing Philosophy, Volume 12, Number 3, July 2011 , pp. 200-213(14)

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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Abstract:

Abstract

Within the literature that circulates in the discourses organizing nursing education, there are embedded assumptions that link student performance on maths examinations to safe medication practices. These assumptions are rooted historically. They fundamentally shape educational approaches assumed to support safe practice and protect patients from nursing error. Here, we apply an institutional ethnographic lens to the body of literature that both supports and critiques the emphasis on numeracy skills and medication safety. We use this form of inquiry to open an alternate interrogation of these practices. Our main argument posits that numeracy skills serve as powerful distraction for both students and teachers. We suggest that they operate under specious claims of safety and objectivity. As nurse educators, we are captured by taken-for-granted understandings of practices intended to produce safety. We contend that some of these practices are not congruent with how competency actually unfolds in the everyday world of nursing practice. Ontologically grounded in the materiality of work processes, we suggest there is a serious disjuncture between educators' assessment and evaluation work where it links into broad nursing assumptions about medication work. These underlying assumptions and work processes produce contradictory tensions for students, teachers and nurses in direct practice.

Keywords: institutional ethnography; medication errors; medication work; numeracy skills; patient safety

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1466-769X.2011.00493.x

Affiliations: Assistant Professor, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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