Terms of address: implications for nursing


  • Iain Bowie MA(Linguistics), BA(Hons) RGN OND DipN Cert Ed

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    1. Lecturer in Nursing, Nightingale Institute, King's College, London, and British Home and Hospital, London, England
    • Iain Bowie, Lecturer, Nightingale Institute, Normanby Campus King's college London Cutcombe Street, London SE5 9RJ England.

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Nurses are in a position of power over their clients Power is reflected by status and clients, like all other people, have status relative to their social situation Terms of address are one of the ways that status and solidarity are demonstrated They are selected on the basis of the perceived status of the nurse and client, and the solidarity of the relationship There is a tension between solidarity and status that can cause nurses to select inappropriate terms of address or referring pronouns The nurse may choose terms of address to increase solidarity in the relationship, for example, to show empathy with the client's apparent vulnerable condition By increasing solidarity the client's status may seem to be diminished Clients may have to submit to many invasive, painful, embarrassing or humiliating experiences at the nurse's request Many of these situations are beyond ordinary acceptable behaviour outside the clinical context Distress to clients is minimized if they retain as much control as possible and one way keeping a certain amount of control is by maintaining their status In making a selection of terms of address and pronouns, the nurse must consider the delicate nuances of the options available so that the status of the client is not compromised This paper discusses the options available in selecting terms of address and referring pronouns, and the sociological implications of those choices