Blood, Sweat and Tears: Women as Nurses Nursing Women in the Gynaecology Ward - a Feminist Interpretive Study
This feminist study is an exploration of the subjectivity of women working as nurses within the gynaecological ward. Gynaecology has a long history as a unique area of concern to the health practitioners of any given period. However, recently with the development of modern gynaecology, this specialty has become based on male knowledge and male texts, women either as patients or nurses appear voiceless within this canon. Major texts within nursing mirror a medical construction of gynaecology, with the women involved in the discourse again absent from the literature. To explore the nurses' reality within the gynaecological ward I have undertaken a feminist interpretive study. Feminist research is gaining recognition within nursing and the contribution that such research can make to the development of nursing knowledge is acknowledged within the profession. However, it is within the work of nurse-scholars from Australia that feminist and postmodern ideas are most commonly debated. Their work provides an innovative approach to the exploration of nurses' work. To contribute to this debate I drew on certain specific notions from feminist and postmodern epistemologies to inform my work. These notions of the Other, difference, the body and discourse provided a unique way of viewing the practice of the nurses in this gynaecological setting. These epistemological concepts were then interwoven with feminist strategies to undertake my research. Through the process of feminist praxis, which included my working alongside the nurses and conducting in-depth interviews, three areas of general concern to the nurses emerged. Firstly the relationships, that is their relationships with each other as nurses and with their women patients. Secondly, the difficulties inherent in nurses' practice in this setting due to the nature of the experiences of the women they were nursing. These difficulties arose in relation to two particular situations, nursing women experiencing a mid-trimester termination and nursing women with cancer. Thirdly, the relationship with/in the medical discourse and individual doctors which, according to the nurses, had a major impact on their work. This study contributes to nursing knowledge by providing a forum for the voices of women as nurses, who nurse women in the gynaecological ward, to be heard. Using concepts from both feminist and postmodern theorising enabled the surfacing of the voices of nurses and interpretation of their experiences from a position of embodied reality. The diversity of the practice of nurses and the importance of recognising and working with this diversity became evident. Writing the text has been an important part of this research. Seeing writing as a political act in the way that many feminists do requires careful attention to the written word. Considering our fundamental nursing texts from a feminist perspective shows that many reflect a medical construction of gynaecological conditions and their treatment. Making explicit the voices of women as nurses is an important step in making women visible within the discourse of gynaecology. Nursing and feminism have much to offer each other and share an emancipatory goal of positive action to support and assist people in their lives.