Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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"Getting on Top of Pain": a Critical Analysis of Surgical Nurses' Talk About Their Work with Hospitalised Patients Reporting Pain

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posted on 2021-11-03, 02:06 authored by King, Suzanne Lavinia Jane

This thesis investigates the relationship between language, 'discourse' and professional knowledge and power in a specific context; that of surgical nurses' "talk" about their work managing pain in hospitalised patients. This thesis argues that the work of 'caring for' hospitalised surgical patients who report pain is influenced by discourses which are predicated on different readings/understandings of the body/patient, and from which different knowledge is constructed. Of interest to this thesis are the discourses of biomedicine and nursing, and their role in constructing a particular reality/ies which determine the ways in which surgical nurses talk about their work managing pain.  Using the method of critical discourse analysis, the "texts" of transcribed audio-taped conversations with four registered nurses working in surgical specialties were analysed to uncover 'discourses of pain management'. The results of the analysis indicate that the biomedical construction of pain, and approaches to pain management, remain the dominant influence over surgical nurses' practice. There was evidence of nursing discourses with an emphasis on nurse-patient relationships also playing a role. These discourses were critically examined for what they reveal about relations of professional knowledge and power in this specific context of the nurses' practice. The implications for nursing and nursing research are considered significant because the study critically (re)presents a different perspective on, and reality for surgical nurses' pain management practices. In so doing, it elucidates an explanation for, and understanding of, why surgical nurses take care of patients reporting pain in particular ways.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Arts (Applied)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health


Bickley, Joy