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Professional Intimacy: An Ethnography of Care in Hospital Nursing

Huebner, Lisa Camille (2008) Professional Intimacy: An Ethnography of Care in Hospital Nursing. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The global nursing shortage severely impacts the health care crisis in the United States and around the world. Nurses are overworked and under recognized and patients feel frustrated and neglected. Nurses professionalize their labor to increase recognition of their contributions tomedicine, but these efforts focus on individualism and deemphasize the intimate nature of their work. Nonetheless, experienced bedside nurses know that intimate interactions help patients feel safe and comfortable during illness, which contributes to their healing. These interactions require specialized knowledge and skill, which contradicts the popular idea that whether or not one is caring is a personal attribute.In this dissertation, I found that nurse-patient interactions are in large part shaped byperceptions and constructions of race, gender, sexuality, and nationality. I offer the term professional intimacy to characterize how nurses negotiate intimate care and learn this specialized knowledge and skill set over time. I argue for collective recognition of professionalintimacy, that it can and should be taught to nurses, and that hospitals can better accommodatethis labor. Allowing nurses to conduct professionally intimate work will ensure better medical care for patients, which ultimately increases both nurse and patient satisfaction.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Huebner, Lisa
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBlee, Kathleen Mkblee@pitt.eduKBLEE
Committee MemberHashimoto, Akikoahash@pitt.eduAHASH
Committee MemberGreen, Cecilia Acagreen@pitt.eduCAGREEN
Committee MemberOlshansky,
Date: 24 January 2008
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 20 August 2007
Approval Date: 24 January 2008
Submission Date: 20 November 2007
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Arizona; care; commodification; emotional labor; feminist methods; feminist theory; gender; intersectionality; intimacy; Phoenix; work
Other ID:, etd-11202007-085905
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:05
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:51


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