UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring historical and contemporary fragments of nurses’ invisible practice Macfarlane, Kim


The social context in the hospital setting is fraught with competing and contradictory versions about who nurses are and what they do. Using a sociocultural framework, this thesis provides an analysis of historical and contemporary texts related to hospital-based nursing, and argues that many themes operative in these "official versions" of practice have rendered the breath and complexity of nurses' everyday practices "in/visible." Given that "official versions" of nursing practice are reified in nurses' job descriptions, this research develops a necessarily partial response to the following question: What are nurses' ideas about their in/visible practice within a hospital setting? Nurses’ in/visible practice is, here, defined as the disparity between their "actual" practices, and the job description's "textual representations" of their practice (Smith, 1987 &1990). This investigation took place in an acute care hospital in British Columbia. Seven nurses comprised the primary research group. The research methods used to investigate nurses' in/visible practice included: career autobiographies, direct observation, journals, unstructured one-on-one interviews and concurrent group discussions. Data obtained from these methods underwent qualitative analysis, and both the researcher and the researched (nurses) jointly constructed thematic interpretations of nurses' in/visible practice. This particular analysis of nurses’ in/visible practice suggests that there are "profound" disparities between nurses’ actual practices, and those represented in their job description. Nurses appear to have resisted such textual representations and, in turn, have (re)invented complex theories of "thinking-in-practice," interwoven with an informal "learning with/in practice curriculum."

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