Data Sharing Leads to Patient Caring?: Gender, Technology and Nurses' Caring Work

Zena Sharman
Communication, Simon Fraser University
December, 2003
 

Abstract


This thesis reports the results of research about the relationships among gender, technology and nurses’ caring work which are explored in relation to a Patient Care Information System (PCIS). From a feminist standpoint it examines how nurses use and perceive technology in their professional practice. Qualitative research was conducted in the Emergency Department (ED) at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). Data were collected through interviews with nurses and extensive observation in the ED. Grounded theory, Francophone feminist ergonomics, and feminist approaches to research and interviewing provide the thesis’ methodological foundation.


PCIS is a hospital-wide computer system used by staff to enter and track patient information. The title of this thesis, “Data sharing leads to patient caring,” refers to PCIS, and represents a vision of healthcare founded on the introduction of new technologies, leading to processes of rationalization and greater scrutiny of workers. This vision of healthcare stands in contrast to the way nurses define care on the basis of the formation of embodied caring relationships with individual patients.


The thesis asks four questions. First, does using PCIS to share data facilitate patient care? Second, how do nurses interact with PCIS in the act of caring for patients? Third, how does PCIS fit into nurses’ broader understanding of technology’s role in the delivery of patient care? Finally, how does gender shape nurses’ perceptions of caring and technology?


I argue that nurses at VGH define care, and the relationships between caring and technology in their professional practice, in opposition to the organizational vision of caring represented by the phrase “data sharing leads to patient caring.” This is an act of resistance by women workers in a feminized profession to a gendered political economy in care that simultaneously devalues their caring work, renders much of it invisible, and subjects what remains to processes of rationalization and technological scrutiny.
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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