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The implications of healthcare reforms for the profession of nursing


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    An earlier version of this paper was presented by Dingwall at an International Symposium, ‘Mit der Pflege in der Zukunft’ at the Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland, August 2000.

    ‘Caring for’ refers to the tasks of tending for another person and ‘caring about’ refers to one’s feelings for another person (Dalley 1996).

    2 This section draws generally on Dingwall et al. (1988) and the detailed citations included there.

    3 Although this point is probably most widely known through the work of French writers like Michel Foucault (1979a, 1979b, 1985, 1990) and Jacques Donzelot (1980), it is also broadly accepted by other social historians (e.g. Donajgrodski 1977).

    4 In the case of midwifery, the feminist emphasis centred on the rights of women to be freed from (male) obstetricians and the medicalisation of child-birth, which provided the basis for an alliance between women as mothers and women as midwives. Whilst an orientation to the holistic emotion work of midwives was present in the midwives’ jurisdictional claims, it was not given the same prominence as it was in general nursing.

Dr Davina Allen, Lecturer & Deputy Director, Nursing, Health and Social Care Research Centre, School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies, University of Wales College of Medicine, Wales, UK.. E-mail: <>

The implications of healthcare reforms for the profession of nursing

This paper offers a wide-ranging analysis of concerns that the value of emotion work within nursing is being eroded. We examine the occupation’s historical development to argue that, in so far as emotion work has any essence within nursing, it is as an occupational myth which has been deployed to legitimate nurses’ jurisdictional claims. We argue that recent developments in health-care raise questions about the benefits of claims of this kind and suggest that a little more realism about the nature of nursing work might make for a more sustainable professional future.