Professional boundary struggles in the context of healthcare change: the relational and symbolic constitution of nursing ethos in the space of possible professionalisation

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The paper draws on Bourdieu’s conceptualization of the symbolic order and little used concept of ethos in order to gain novel understandings of boundary struggles between nursing and medicine as well as internally in nursing. The constituents of boundary struggles are analysed in the context of healthcare transformation, focusing on organizational, institutional and political boundary undertakings. Changing conditions for boundary demarcations and professionalisation include a preference for evidence-based knowledge and practice, seen as a remedy against common problems in healthcare. The paper shows how nurses use the changes in ‘the space of possible professionalisation’ in their struggle for professionalization. They thus expand their scope of practice and embark on what is conceptualised as a curing ethos, where nursing is understood as a discipline performing practices that lead to cure. However, this is repudiated by the medical profession at all levels. Moreover, curing stands opposed to the caring ethos in nursing and boundary struggles surface as ‘ethos confrontation’ between caring and curing oriented nurses in practice. The boundary struggles analysed in this paper raise important questions about healthcare manageability and the development of sustainable professional environments.
TidsskriftSociology of Health and Illness
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2020

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