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Conceptualizing structural violence in the context of mental health nursing

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Abstract

This article explores how the intersections of gendered, racialized and neoliberal dynamics reproduce social inequality and shape the violence that nurses face. Grounded in the interviews and focus groups conducted with a purposeful sample of 17 registered nurses (RNs) and registered practical nurses (RPNs) currently working in Ontario's mental health sector, our analysis underscores the need to move beyond reductionist notions of violence as simply individual physical or psychological events. While acknowledging that violence is a very real and disturbing experience for individual nurses, our article casts light on the importance of a broader, power structure analysis of violence experienced by nurses in this sector, arguing that effective redress lies beyond blame shifting between clients/patients and nurses. Our analysis illustrates how assumptions about gender, race and care operate in the context of global, neoliberal forces to reinforce, intensify and create, as well as obscure, structural violence through mechanisms of individualization and normalization.

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