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Abstract

Although sociologists interested in health and illness have extensively deployed the work of Michel Foucault in recent years, few studies have examined the ways in which this is of use in understanding nursing practice. This paper explores the ways in which nurses' accounts of their work and relationships with patients reflect a discourse of the social. While these accounts reflect a thoroughgoing accommodation of the importance of ‘knowing’ the patient as more than an object of clinical practice and procedure, they also reveal the practical problems that must be negotiated in attempting to do so. Foucault's notion of the clinical gaze is deployed in interpreting these accounts, and the question of power and resistance in nursing work is discussed.