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Disciplinary power and nurse identity: A Foucauldian analysis of student nurse education in Jersey from 1924-2015

Journeaux, Moyra 2018. Disciplinary power and nurse identity: A Foucauldian analysis of student nurse education in Jersey from 1924-2015. EdD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The purpose of this study is to explore how students’ nurse identity has developed over the years and the particular role that disciplinary power has had in shaping it. The research focus was the School of Nursing in Jersey from 1924-2015. The study site included the wider social space where nurse education occurred at the School of Nursing; that is the classroom, the practice area and the nurses’ home. The study attempts to fill a gap in local nursing history by creating a unique record while also considering the wider social influences on how students develop a nurse identity. The primary data comprises interviews with fifteen (n=15) participants who provide an historical account of their experiences as students. Interview transcripts and diary narratives with a further four (n=4) former nursing students from the earlier period are also included. These are supplemented with documentary archive material in the form of hospital student nurse records, newspaper archives, Societe Jersiaise archives, personal correspondence and photographs. Foucault’s (1979) concept of panopticism was used to explore how the functioning of disciplinary power promoted the notion of docility and shaped the developing nurse identity of students. The Foucauldian framework provided a sociological analysis of disciplinary power and how the unconscious conditioning of students created the “docile body”. The main themes identified relate to freedom (or not) of choice in choosing a career, shifting modes of control, control through the use of time, knowing your place, sister’s “gaze” as a panoptical figure, living and working by the rules, fear of punishment, the gendered nature of nursing as an occupation, medical dominance, and the support from fellow students. The technologies of surveillance, normalising judgement and examination were employed to understand how, as student nurses, the participants internalised the values, beliefs and behaviours experienced in the School of Nursing. Tracing these technologies of discipline from the beginnings of the School of Nursing to its present day amounts to what in Foucauldian terms is a history of the objectification of the present. Findings indicate that discipline was a means of constructing experience and served to shape the identity of the participants as student nurses. It was easier to recognise Foucault’s (1979, 1995) concept of panopticism in the traditional nurses’ accounts; how this applied to the contemporary setting was less obvious but nonetheless apparent. While there has been more discreet monitoring of students in recent years, the methods of surveillance remain rooted in Foucault’s (1979, 1995) representation of panopticism and the construction of the “docile body”. Control was exerted over their lives in the classroom and on the wards. As students the participants began to regulate their own behaviour and discipline themselves. The historical perceptions of what it means to be a “good nurse” impacted on their developing identity across the years. The unconscious conditioning of the students served to create the “docile body” of the student nurse and this impacted on the development of an identity. Having identified the importance of the influence of disciplinary power, further research exploring this among student nurses in the contemporary university setting could make a positive contribution to understanding how this moulds a nurse identity.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 March 2019
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 01:56

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