Professional uncertainty: nurses in the technologically intense arena


Dr H.C. Wichowski, 521 Spring Street, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54301, USA.


The implementation of medical technology in health care continues to escalate. Using a grounded theory methodological approach, nurses were interviewed regarding their feelings about medical technology and its impact on their practice. Through the medium of participant observation nurses were observed as they worked in a technologically intense general hospital in the United States. Nurses were ambivalent regarding the benefits of medical technology to nursing practice and patient care. In particular, they questioned whether the use of techniques facilitated relationships with patients or detracted from them. Findings showed that, in the practice setting, it appeared that most of the nurses' time was spent in co-ordinating, assessing and manipulating equipment. Technology structured nurses' time and gave their role some parameters. Technology also shaped the nurse-patient relationship and limited interactions to educational instruction, physical assessments and strategies to support the technology. Nurses' ambivalence regarding the benefits of technology appeared to be symptomatic of professional uncertainty. The hospital focus on technology is contrary to the considerable appreciation of the psychosocial nurse-patient relationship with which the neophyte nurse has been imbued. This practice-educational dichotomy causes role uncertainty for the registered nurse.