INKSHED XXIII May 5, 2006

Patricia: Nurses as writers: The professional/expressive divide

It was clear when I read the selection that it was a multi-genre piece though I did not understand what of that was expectation and what was result. Regardless of expectation it seems to me the writer herself was somewhat unclear about what it was her product was supposed to be. I saw elements of a personal reflective journal, of an essay with supporting evidence and also elements of narrative, storytelling of an incident written in a style not for self (as a journal would be) but in a style to engage a reader (e.g. "I, coming from a warm and loving family -- ". Perhaps she is trying to compel not an anonymous reader to understand but, in fact, herself. -- Pat S.

It's confusing from the inside too! - i.e. Writing may be is a needed outlet that helps make sense of the tragedy of the human condition.

A collaborative written project approach . . . a sense that within community nurses can be empowered to deal with the larger community, would be my sense of the ideal.

It's encouraging to hear that they are beginning to realize the power of writing, and how it can be used as a tool -- especially to enact changes. It can certainly be used as a tool to fight the invisibility that plagues the profession.

It would be useful to use reflective journaling as a tool in nursing education and as a tool for professional development.

I wonder if there are other ways nurses could use writing therapeutically for themselves. Perhaps journal writing to explore their feelings about their experiences (an approach to the impersonal logging that I expect is required). This seems to be the type of thing the student wrote about in the handout -- reaction to her experiences.

How much of the expressive element in nursing grad writing is a coping behaviour? Therapeutic? It certainly seems to me the expressive is precisely a key component of their professional identity -- the problem is how to validate it in academic contexts and genres.

The reflective text Patricia asked us to read seems to me potentially just that sort of form, and to have the potential to be used in that way. But we, in general, ignore these uses of writing, and tend to assume, I guess, that they just grow internally. -- Russ

Nurses may need to write with/for/to power to achieve their collective goals. -- Brock

This theme was brought up again in Patricia's presentation. Is writing a tool that may break this invisibility and allow voices of nurses and social workers to be heard and valued? I am not sure . . . (Response: The question is, what kind of writing?)

I think such assignment need to be challenged because they use personal reflection to "confess". Personal reflections(?) should always be connected to questions about the social context that prevails and allows such self-flagellation. Writers need to be taught how to use personal information in a way that is convincing and does not undermine their own ethics. (Responses: 1) I don't think that personal reflections can be forced into an "academic paper" form. I know that students resist that. There is a place for reflection. 2) Yes, or create a false or assumed ethos (what the teacher expects me to say").

Interesting topic - one that provoked a lot of similarities to my work in education.

I'm not convinced that she could put away the judgments she declares having had, just by deciding to do so. The sense of invisibility really does need to be addressed, and the written word may be the way to relieve it. -- C. Creed

Do they see these writing arrangements as tools to prepare their students for the writing that they will do as nurses, or do they see these assignments as extensions of the courses themselves, as evaluation exercises or as learning opportunities?

It seems to me that if these nurses miraculously manage the assignments they have then they are coming out with a rich set of tools. The demands are such that they have to hear a variety of voices. But I can imagine it must be discouraging. -- Miriam

The nursing program where I work opted for a WAC model of writing within their major courses, but I'm not sure (or I suspect, at least) that it doesn't have as nuanced an understanding of the kinds of discourse that you enumerated. (Response: That speaks of assumptions within the entire profession that we as writing teachers may not be able to address alone . . . )

I found the student draft interesting from a stylistic point of view. She starts out using active verbs and a rather natural tone, as soon as she begins to cite "the literature"; she uses passive voice and rather stilted language. Is that a reflection of the style she's emulating in her sources? (Response: As well as a reflection on the vast contradictions that nurses' writing embodies.)

The one thing I didn't clearly get from your paper is -- what can we do as writing teachers, or what can trained writing tutors do, to help nurses deal with all these contradictions and demands? Are there any practical strategies we can employ? I also find it fascinating that nurses are expected to focus on caring and empathy (I've read a lot of the literature on a feminist "ethic of care," and indeed, much of it focuses on nursing), but doctors are expected to remain "objective." That speaks to an enormous ideological, cultural, systemic divide that goes far deeper and has much broader implications that writing teachers could hope to deal with.