Nursing, Information Technology and the Humanization of Health Care

Nursing, Information Technology and the Humanization of Health Care

Mike Hazelton (University of Newcastle, Australia) and Peter Morrall (University of Leeds, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-034-1.ch011
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The troubling question is posed of how to integrate new technology in nursing in a manner that will lead to use that has congruence with the nursing mission. The context of healthcare delivery is discussed through reference to Foucault’s notion of ‘governmentality’. The challenge is presented to nursing to critically think through the issues to enable development of voice to influence the healthcare policy agenda in the area of informatics.
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Why Adopt A Troubling/Troublesome Stance To Nursing Informatics?

The authors of this chapter have received training in both nursing and sociology. While a background in nursing may provide insights into the ways in which information technology can bring substantial improvements to health care, being grounded in sociology can socialize one into asking challenging, even troublesome questions about a topic of interest. For instance, are there costs accompanying the benefits often associated with developments in information technology? In this chapter we want to ask questions about what are otherwise taken for granted ideas, values and social relations surrounding the development and increasing use of information technology in nursing.

At the outset it is important to make it clear that we are not against the use of information technology in nursing. We are both regular users of email; both own mobile phones; and frequently use the internet to assist with research and teaching. Our primary purpose is to raise ‘inconvenient facts’ (Dean, 2010: 48, citing Weber, 1972: 152), so as to incite critical thought on the implications of increasing reliance on information technology in nursing specifically and health care more generally. We want to prompt nurses and other health workers to reflect on the implications of making informatics a central component of the caring enterprise.

Our interest in nursing and information technology follows on from previous work which raised questions regarding ongoing human rights violations perpetrated against people with mental health problems and disorders (Morrall & Hazelton, 2004). This work pointed to the ways in which mental health services have become much more security conscious in many countries; how risk management seems to be overtaking therapeutic concerns in our psychiatric services and institutions (Hazelton & Morrall, 2009). Information communication technologies are central to this new psychiatric security infrastructure, with, for instance, closed circuit television monitoring and electronic staff duress alarms being added to more traditional security measures such as locked windows and doors and containment fences. Just as we have pondered the implications of using technology to ‘solve’ security problems in mental health care, so do we now want to turn a critical eye to the implications of using informatics in solve problems in health care more generally.

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