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Genealogy as a critical toolbox: deconstructing the professional identity of nurses

Authors

  • Margalida Miró-Bonet BSc Psy PhD RN,

    Researcher/Assistant Professor
    1. Critical Health Research Group, Faculty of Nursing and Physiotherapy, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
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  • Andreu Bover-Bover Bsc Byo PhD RN,

    Researcher/Assistant Professor
    1. Critical Health Research Group, Faculty of Nursing and Physiotherapy, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
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  • Cristina Moreno-Mulet MSc RN,

    PhD candidate/Researcher/Assistant Professor
    1. Critical Health Research Group, Faculty of Nursing and Physiotherapy, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
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  • Rosa Miró-Bonet MSc RN,

    PhD candidate/Researcher/Assistant Professor
    1. Critical Health Research Group, Faculty of Nursing and Physiotherapy, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
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  • Concha Zaforteza-Lallemand BSc Ant PhD RN

    Researcher/Assistant Professor
    1. Critical Health Research Group, Faculty of Nursing and Physiotherapy, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
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Correspondence to M. Miró-Bonet:

e-mail: mmiro@uib.es

Abstract

Aim

To discuss the Foucauldian concept of genealogy as a framework for understanding and transforming nurses' professional identity.

Background

The professional identity of nurses has primarily been defined by personal and interpersonal attributes and by the intradisciplinary dimensions of nursing, leading to its conceptualization as a universal, monolithic phenomenon. The Foucauldian genealogical perspective offers a critical lens to examine what constitutes this professional identity; Spanish nursing offers a historical case study of an active effort to impose an identity that fits the monolithic ideal.

Data sources

Five of the 33 professional conduct manuals for nurses' training published from 1956–1976 during the Franco dictatorship in Spain and six interviews with nursing instructors or students at the time were analysed using a theoretical framework drawn from Foucault's writing.

Discussion

Foucault's genealogical framework considers practices of normalization and resistance as a means of understanding knowledge continuities and discontinuities, clarifying practices that constitute nurses' professional identity in a particular way in specific contexts and analysing the implications of this theoretical frame.

Implications for nursing

The genealogy concept offers valuable tools to determine how professional identities are constituted, questions assumptions about the profession and its professionals and envisions alternative approaches. This theoretical approach helps both scholars and practitioners understand, question and transform their practices as needed.

Conclusion

The genealogical approach prioritizes analysis of the phenomenon over its description and challenges many unknown, forgotten, excluded and/or unquestioned aspects of identity from a position of diversity and complexity.

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