Nursing as Body Work

Posted on June 26, 2014 by

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The current “Editor’s Pick ” article from the current ANS issue is titled “Critical Perspectives on Nursing as Bodywork,” authored by Karen Anne Wolf, PhD, APRN-BC, DFNAP. In this thought-provoking article, Dr. Wolf  calls for nurses to reject the objectification of the body and instead reclaim body work as integral to a holistic perspective.

Dr. Wolf shared this message about her work for ANS readers:

Nursing as work is the focus of my scholarship. In past work, I have explored the larger structural issues in the collective history of nursing. In this paper I explore the paradoxical nature of nursing as bodywork. Scratching beneath the surface of the issues of status and power opens a window on the variety of factors that shape the work of nurses in relation to their patients. The nurse-body relationship is so fundamental to nursing work that we are blind to its social impact. This results in contradictory images and experiences. For example, nurses are revered as “most trusted” and angelic in many countries yet Wolf300exposed to persistent degradation within the media and in public discourse.

Nursing work continues to be viewed as low status despite professionalization efforts. The social discomfort with the human body contributes to the paradoxes in nursing as bodywork. The relational boundaries between nurses and patients blur ordinarily taboo spaces. The intimacy of providing physical care carries the stigma of nursing as dirty work. Yet this same intimacy throughout the sacred rituals of birth, death, and vulnerability contributes to the entrusted relationship. De-stigmatizing nursing as bodywork begins with accepting our bodywork relationship. Without such an acceptance, there is a tendency to distance nursing from the body through the increasing use of ancillary nursing workers or technology. Recognizing the paradox of nursing as bodywork is a critical to the future of the profession. I would suggest that we consciously claim and embrace the relational care for the body rather than reject it. Nurses must be mindful and respect the power inherent in their privileged and intimate relationship with patients.

Download your copy of Dr. Wolf’s article at no cost while it is featured on the ANS web site! We welcome your thoughts and comments in response!

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