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Governing Post-Operative Pain: The Construction of 'Good and Active' Patients, 'Good and Busy' Nurses and the Production of Docile Bodies

Keywords: disciplinary power , Foucault , governmentality , pain

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Abstract:

Nursing practices can attract concern, even criticism, when watched from the bedside, or read from fieldwork transcripts by nurse-researchers investigating patients' communication of pain. However, a secondary analysis, via a discourse analysis with Foucault's work on governmentality, allowed for a reading of how pain was governed and this provided another perspective. In these findings, the nurses' position is constructed by patients as both 'good' and 'busy', regardless of the responsiveness of nurses to patients' pain. The patients' position was that of a 'good' patient if they were 'active'; that is, undertaking self-surveillance in relation to their pain and actively working toward their recovery. Their pain was constructed on a linear and numerical scale, to which all complied. Important to all this is the examination, a disciplinary procedure with invisible but powerful effects, so powerful that the patient's body is rendered docile.

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