A detailed ethnography exploring the professional skill of intimate care in nursing
Catheters, Slurs, and Pickup Lines
Professional Intimacy in Hospital Nursing
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Lisa C. Ruchti
Every day, hospital nurses must negotiate intimate trust and intimate conflict in an effort to provide quality health care. However, interactions between nurses and patients—which often require issues of privacy—are sometimes made more uncomfortable with inappropriate behavior, as when a patient has a racist and/or sexist outburst. Not all nurses are prepared to handle such intimacy, but they can all learn how to "be caring."
In Catheters, Slurs, and Pickup Lines, Lisa Ruchti carefully examines this fragile relationship between intimacy and professional care, and provides a language for patients, nurses, and administrators to teach, conduct, and advocate for knowledgeable and skilled intimate care in a hospital setting. She also recommends best training practices and practical and effective policy changes to handle conflicts.
Ruchti shows that "caring" is not just a personality characteristic but is work that is structured by intersections of race, gender, and nationality.
"Catheters, Slurs, and Pickup Lines, makes many important contributions to the study of nursing, gendered work, commercialized intimacy, and intersectionality. It is rigorously researched, engagingly written, and analytically sophisticated. The central theme of professional intimacy synthesizes recent literatures on emotional labor, body labor, and the purchase of intimacy. Ruchtiís theoretical arguments are provocative and original, and the empirical findings are rich and nuanced."
"Catheters, Slurs, and Pickup Lines is an engaging text that offers readers a fresh context for thinking about the nursing profession and the implications of gendered work through an intersectional lens.... Ruchtiís study sets a precedent that challenges social workers to reflect on our subjectivity, power, and privilege to deconstruct altruistic notions of working in a Ďhelpingí profession.... Ruchtiís study can be used as a motivation to recognize the skills of emotional labor that are used to do anti-oppressive and socially just work in the communities that we work with and as we navigate processes of systemic change."
"[R]ich and detailed.... Ruchti's deep immersion in the field allows the reader a vantage point into the remarkable regularity of sexual behaviors, advances, commentary and conflict in hospitals.... Ruchti's research is particularly timely as the United States approaches two emergent trends: nursing shortages and a quickly aging population.... Ruchti's work is highly teachable and would be particularly useful to advanced undergraduates. She is clear in her prose and careful in her definition of terms. Scholars and students interested in medical sociology, labor, occupations and identity will find her work accessible and informative."
"[A] compelling ethnography that skillfully explores the work of professional intimacy in hospital nursing.... The book is a major contribution to the newly burgeoning scholarship on care work, and Ruchtiís findings pose numerous questions to anyone interested in bringing recognition to professionally intimate labor.... This book is a must-have for those of us teaching and researching in medical worlds. Our students will gain valuable insight into the day-to-day work of caring for patients, and our research will benefit from consideration of the many lessons contained in this richly documented exploration of professional intimacy."
"Ruchtiís fascinating new ethnography asks us to imagine the selfless, moral calling of Florence Nightingale and consider the effects of this fantasy image on the work of nurses... Ruchtiís interviews demonstrate the often contradictory joys and perils of doing intimate labor.... Her book clearly shows how arduous and demanding the job can be; that is, caring is not natural or innate but a constellation of skills that one must learn.... This book would be useful for anyone conducting research or teaching advanced undergraduate courses or graduate seminars on gender, work and occupations, globalization, care work, or qualitative research methods."
"[A]n insightful, well-written, and well-organized book that discusses how framing nursing as professional labor has been an important part of a long battle that nurses have fought to be taken seriously in the medical industry. Ruchti suggests that a dichotomy of professionalism and care persists in part because intimacy, as part of bedside care, seems unprofessional. In this book, Ruchti uncovers how professionally intimate care work fits into the larger system of commercialized and commodified intimacies and demonstrates how nurses, administrators, and patients idealize care, which only serves to reinforce the misunderstanding of this labor.... The book should be of significant use to anyone interested in patient and quality healthcare, the nursing profession, the growing diversity in nursing, and implications for the nursing shortage."
Lisa C. Ruchti is an Assistant Professor in the Women's and Gender Studies Program and the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her research and teaching focus on the sociology of gender, intersectionality, and transnational feminist theories.