Nurses go visiting : ethics and gender in home-based nursing care

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis is to explore how nursing is constructed in home-based nursing care from the viewpoint of patients and nurses who are receiving or giving care. Since nursing both constructs and is in turn constructed by the context in which it serves, language plays a central part in those constructions and in this thesis. The thesis has been guided by social constructionism, meaning that the positions the patients and the nurses inhabits have been considered as social phenomenon constructed in discursive processes.There are two ideas that guided this thesis. One idea was that home-based nursing care promotes the association of caring abilities in relation to nursing, women and the private sphere. Another idea was that the place where the care was carried out has ethical implications.Data was collected from interviews with 10 home-based nurses (study I) working in community in the western part of Sweden and 10 patients cared for in their home by these nurses (study II). Nurses and patients were interviewed about their experiences of giving respectively receiving home-based nursing care. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed with a discourse analytic method in study I and II. The findings in study I show that the nurses described their subject positions as "guests" and "professionals" and that they have to make a choice between these positions, as it is impossible to perform both positions at the same time. Dependent on the situation, both an ethics of care and an ethics of justice were applied by the nurses, that is, to perform according to the subject positions of "guest" or "professional."In study II, the patients describe their own subject position as "safeguard" and the nurses‟ positions as "substitutes". These subject positions provided the opportunities, and the obstacles, for the patients‟ possibilities to receive care in their home which included which kind of strategies, habits and activities the patients described and what tasks and how they considered or expected the nurses to perform. These findings are discussed within a theoretical framework, i.e. a gendered dichotomy of the private spheres versus the public spheres. Inherent in this framework is a discussion of the findings related to the habits that are essential in the nurses‟ and the patients‟ constructions of subject positions.In study III, metaphors used by home-based nurses‟ were explored as a means to discover values and norms held by nurses working in home-based nursing care. Ten interviews with nurses working in home-based nursing care (the same interviews as in study I) were analyzed and interpreted with a metaphor analytic method. In the analysis metaphoric linguistic expressions (MLE) were explored and patterns of MLEs formed two entailments. After exploring MLEs and entailments on an explicit surface level the analysis went to a broader underlying dimension of conceptual metaphors identifying the overall metaphor: "Home-based nursing care is an endless journey". The metaphor "Home-based nursing care is an endless journey" exposed home-based nursing care in constant motion, thereby requiring nurses to adjust to circumstances. This adjustment required ethical maturity based on experience, knowledge, and creativity. The study III focuses on the importance of further developing reflections over experiences related to everyday ethical issues.In study IV, the findings from study I were the starting point for a philosophical exploration of the concept "guest" and its relation to other adjacent concepts such as hosts and hospitality. The question to be answered was as follows: In what ways can home-based nurses‟ description of being "guests" in patients‟ home be understood? The exploration was based on Derrida‟s philosophy of unconditional and conditional hospitality, Levinas‟ philosophy of "face" and "the Other" and Arendt‟s philosophy of "go visiting". The findings indicated that the concept "guest" was not appropriate for the nurses to use when describing their position in home-based nursing care, since the concept was problematic for the content and the complexity of home-based nursing care. The findings also showed that exposing concepts as binaries is fruitful since they show relationship between concepts. Just illuminating the concept "guest" did not reveal the power relationship between the "guest" and the "host" and their relationship to hospitality.The distinction between diverse ethical perspectives could be seen as problematic or as an opportunity. According to this study, the nurses used a plurality of different ethical ideas, such as an ethics of care, an ethics of justice, an ethics of virtue and an "everyday ethics." A possible interpretation could be that this was a sign of a difficulty to maintain distinction between ethical theories in clinical practice. Ethical issues in the private sphere are less commonly explored compared to ethical issues in the public sphere, for example in hospital care. As showed in this thesis, the distinction between the private and the public spheres was problematic. It does not describe two spatially separate spheres, but rather it describes functionally dependent activities, interests and relations, such as diverse areas of ethical ideas and "feminine" and "masculine" positions.Home-based nursing care is a complex area and discourse analysis of the relation between home-based nursing care, subject positions, ethics and gender is more or less lacking. Exploring home-based nursing care outgoing from discourse analytic perspectives and methods is rewarding for nurses‟ practice, education and research as it opens up new perspectives of home-based nursing care.

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