A Stain on the White Uniform — The Discursive Construction of Nurses' Industrial Action in the Media


  • Elina Henttonen,

  • Kirsi LaPointe,

  • Sinikka Pesonen,

  • Sinikka Vanhala

Address for correspondence: Aalto University School of Economics, Organization and Management, PO Box 21230, 00076 Aalto, Finland; e-mail: elina.henttonen@aalto.fi


This article focuses on the discursive construction of the nursing profession in the context of an industrial action. Drawing on studies that claim that the diffusion of new public management reforms restructure healthcare professions and on feminist studies arguing that gender is crucial to understanding the concepts and processes of this restructuring, the article examines a media debate surrounding a recent labour dispute in the Finnish healthcare sector. The analysis illustrates how the nursing profession was discursively constructed through a negotiation of individual and societal rights and responsibilities, and how the debate was framed by competing and contested discourses of professionalization, caring, labour markets and new public management. As a consequence, the debate both sustained and reproduced the traditional gendered meanings related to the nursing profession, as well as provided a context for unsettling, at least for a moment, the normative gender order of Finnish society.