Power and resistance within the hospital's hierarchical system: the experiences of chronically ill patients
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AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To explore experiences of chronically ill patients and registered nurses when they negotiate patient care in hospital settings. Specifically, we explored how social and institutional discourses shape power relations during the negotiation process. BACKGROUND: The hospital system is embedded in a hierarchical structure where the voice of the healthcare provider as expert is often given more importance than the patient. This system has been criticised as being oppressive to patients who are perceived to be lower in the hierarchy. In this study, we illustrate how the hospital's hierarchical system is not always oppressing but can also create moments of empowerment for patients. DESIGN: A feminist poststructuralist approach informed by the teaching of Foucault was used to explore power relations between nurses and patients when negotiating patient care in hospital settings. METHODS: Eight individuals who suffered from chronic illness shared their stories about how they negotiated their care with nurses in hospital settings. The interviews were tape-recorded. Discourse analysis was used to analyse the data. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Patients recounted various experiences when their voices were not heard because the current hospital system privileged the healthcare provider experts' advice over the patients' voice. The hierarchical structure of hospital supported these dynamics by privileging nurses as gatekeepers of service, by excluding the patients' input in the nursing notes and through a process of self-regulation. However, patients in this study were not passive recipients of care and used their agency creatively to resist these discourses. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Nurses need to be mindful of how the hospital's hierarchical system tends to place nurses in a position of power, and how their authoritative position may positively or adversely affect the negotiation of patient care.
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