Constructing mentally ill inmates: nurses’ discursive practices in corrections

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The concepts of discourse, subjectivity and power allow for innovative explorations in nursing research. Discourse take many different forms and may be maintained, transmitted, even imposed, in various ways. Nursing practice makes possible many discursive spaces where discourses intersect. Using a Foucauldian perspective, were explored the ways in which forensic psychiatric nurses construct the subjectivity of mentally ill inmates. Progress notes and individual interviews constitute discursive spaces within which nurses construct patients’ subjectivities. Progress notes provide a written (and permanent) form of discourse, while interviews set the space for a more fluid and contextual form of discourse. We identified five types of subjectivities - the (in)visible patient, the patient as risk, the deviant patient, the disturbed patient and the disciplined patient. These subjectivities were rooted in various types of discourses circulating in the selected setting. Despite the multiple discursive dimensions of forensic psychiatric nursing, progress notes remain the main formal source of information regarding nursing care even though it is not representative of the care provided nor is it representative of nurses’ complex discursive practices in corrections.

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