Public health nurses as social mediators navigating discourses with new mothers

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Abstract

Public health nurses (PHN) have had a long history of working with new mothers in the community. Their practice includes collaboration, building therapeutic relationships, mutual goal setting, establishing trust, supporting clients' strengths, empowerment and social justice. The wealth of information that new mothers receive both solicited and unsolicited may come from many different sources such as medicine, midwifery and those created personally by families. Although much of the information on mothering is presented with the intent of helping, it can also be hegemonic and oppressive depending on different discourses, stereotypes and myths of mothering and therefore may cause confusion, guilt and uncertainty. Public health nurses often address conflicting social, cultural and personal discourses about mothering practices in order to support an empowering mothering experience. The term ‘social mediator’ was purposefully created in an attempt to describe the unique work of PHNs that this author has witnessed through her own research and practice as a PHN. This paper will present a discussion of the author's own work and research findings that will suggest how feminist poststructuralist theory may be used to guide and understand information exchange between PHNs and mothers as they mediate different social, cultural and personal discourses on mothering.

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