The Invisible Work of Nurses: Hospitals, Organisation and Healthcare, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Invisible Work of Nurses

Hospitals, Organisation and Healthcare, 1st Edition

By Davina Allen


170 pages

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Paperback: 9781138213616
pub: 2016-08-04
Hardback: 9780415723251
pub: 2014-09-02
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pub: 2014-08-27
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Nursing is typically understood, and understands itself, as a care-giving occupation. It is through its relationships with patients – whether these are absent, present, good, bad or indifferent – that modern day nursing is defined. Yet nursing work extends far beyond direct patient care activities. Across the spectrum of locales in which they are employed, nurses, in numerous ways, support and sustain the delivery and organisation of health services. In recent history, however, this wider work has generally been regarded as at best an adjunct to the core nursing function, and at worse responsible for taking nurses away from their ‘real work’ with patients. Beyond its identity as the ‘other’ to care-giving, little is known about this element of nursing practice.

Drawing on extensive observational research of the everyday work in a UK hospital, and insights from practice-based approaches and actor network theory, the aim of this book is to lay the empirical and theoretical foundations for a reappraisal of the nursing contribution to society by shining a light on this invisible aspect of nurses’ work. Nurses, it is argued, can be understood as focal actors in health systems and through myriad processes of ‘translational mobilisation’ sustain the networks through which care is organised. Not only is this work an essential driver of action, it also operates as a powerful countervailing force to the centrifugal tendencies inherent in healthcare organisations which, for all their gloss of order and rationality, are in reality very loose arrangements.

The Invisible Work of Nurses will be interest to academics and students across a number of fields, including nursing, medical sociology, organisational studies, health management, science and technology studies, and improvement science.


'The book is readable for all healthcare professionals and it might be useful for non exec directors as well to enable them to understand the complexities of nursing. Nursing staff should read this book as well to highlight the hidden components of the role, although nursing does glue healthcare together, I think we should be able to articulate what it is that we do…The real life examples and quotes from nurses working in practice, this brought the book to life.'- Kerry Bloodworth, assistant director of nursing, Nottingham University Hospitals, Nursing Times

'In summary, this is an important book by an important sociologist of health care. Although it is a monograph, I could see myself building undergraduate lectures around some of its core concepts and using it as an exemplar in Masters’ level methods teaching. But the big contribution of this book is likely to be in the way that its core concepts can subsequently be developed and exploited as a generalisable apparatus for analysing some of the complexities of organisational work in late modernity.' - Carl May, University of Southampton, Sociology of Health and Illness

Table of Contents

Preface Chapter 1. A Figure-Ground Reversal Chapter 2. Creating Working Knowledge Chapter 3.Articulating Trajectories of Care Chapter 4. Match-Making Chapter 5. Passing the Baton, Parsing the Patient Chapter 6. Rethinking Hospital Organisation, Rethinking Nursing

About the Author

Davina Allen is Professor of Health Service Delivery at Cardiff University, UK. She is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Sociology of Health and Illness.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Health and Social Policy

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Health Care Delivery
MEDICAL / Nursing / Management & Leadership
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disease & Health Issues