Vulnerability, survival and shame in Nina Raine’s Tiger Country

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Abstract

Shame in healthcare remains relatively underexplored, yet it is commonplace and its impact is significant. This paper explores shame in healthcare using Nina Raine’s 2011 play Tiger Country. Three manifestations of shame are explored, namely (1) shame in relation to professional identity and survival in the clinical workplace; (2) shame and illness as experienced by both patients and doctors; and (3) the systemic and organisational influences on shame within healthcare systems. I suggest that the theatre is particularly well-placed to elucidate shame, and that Tiger Country demonstrates the prevalence and impact of shame on clinical work. Shame has a fundamental and overlooked relationship with damaging and well-documented phenomena in healthcare, including moral distress, ethical erosion, compassion fatigue, burnout, stress and ill health. Attention to shame is essential for those interested in medicine and healthcare and must, I propose, include the experiences and perceptions of those who provide care, as well as attending to those who receive care.

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