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Technology and humane nursing care: (ir)reconcilable or invented difference?


Alan Barnard, School of Nursing, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove Campus, Queensland 4059, Australia. E-mail:


Technology and humane nursing care: (ir)reconcilable or invented difference?

Aim(s) of the paper.  This paper questions the validity of a boundary presumed to exist between technology and humane care. It argues the need for reconciliation of presumed tension(s) between technology and person focused care and the need to reconsider our ways of understanding the relations between technology and nursing.

Background/rationale.  Recent scholarship in the social sciences related to reproductive and imaging technologies and emergency resuscitation are examined and arguments are presented that question the appropriateness of a humanist view that emphasizes technology on the nonhuman and nonnatural side of a human/nonhuman, nature/artifice divide. It is argued that what determines experiences such as dehumanization is not technology per se but how individual technologies are used and operate in specific user contexts, the meanings that are attributed to them, how individuals or cultural groups define what is human, and the organizational, human, political and economic technological system (technique) that creates rationale and efficient order within nursing, health care and society.

Conclusion.  The paper concludes by asking whether the commonplace appeal to resolve tensions between humane care and technology has erroneously highlighted technology as the reason for impersonal care, and encourages re-examination of the relationship(s) between technology, humane care and nursing practice.