The shape of general hospital nursing: the division of labour at work

Allen, Davina (1996) The shape of general hospital nursing: the division of labour at work. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (24MB) | Preview


This thesis is about nursing work and the ways in which nurses in a general hospital accomplished occupational jurisdiction. It is based on ethnographic data generated on a surgical ward and a medical ward in a single NHS trust hospital. The study is set in the context of recent developments in nursing and medical education (DHSS, 1987; GMC, 1993; UKCC, 1987) and health policy (DH, 1989) which have created the impetus for shifts in the division of labour in health care, reviving deep-rooted historical tensions between professional and service versions of nursing.

Drawing on the work of Hughes (1984), Abbott (1988) and Strauss and colleagues (Strauss et al, 1963; Strauss et al, 1964; Strauss, 1978) the aim of this project was to move on from the policy debates and develop a less essentialist account of the nursing role through an exploration of the ways in which nurses managed the parameters of their work in the course of their everyday activities. Hughes concept of 'dirty work' is employed as a sensitising device.

The work of hospital-based general nurses is explored through the analysis of five key nursing boundaries: nurse-doctor, nurse-support worker, nurse-patient/relative, nurse-nurse, and nurse-management. The professional and sociological literature suggested that as a result of recent policy developments, there would be an increased need for negotiation of nurses' inter-occupational boundaries with medicine and support workers and that this was likely to be subject to some tension. But field observations revealed that nurses accomplished these inter-occupational boundaries with minimal negotiation and little explicit conflict. Conversely, there were policy-related tensions at the three other key nursing boundaries - at nurses' infra-occupational boundary, at the boundary between nurses and patients and their relatives, and at the boundary between ward-based nurses and nursing and general management - which were largely unanticipated.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: James, V.
Dingwall, R.W.J.
Keywords: division of labour, labor, work, nursing, hospitals, nhs, nursing role, nursing research, nurses
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 11119
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2010 12:25
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2017 11:32

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View