Discourses Influencing Nurses' Perceptions of First Nations Patients


  • Annette J. Browne


This study explores the social and professional discourses that influence nurses' knowledge and assumptions about First Nations patients. Through the use of an ethnographic design, in-depth interviewing, and participant observation, data were collected over a 9-month period of immersion in a midsized hospital located in western Canada. Purposive sampling was used to recruit 35 participants: nurses, First Nations women who were patients in the hospital, and key informants with expertise in Aboriginal health. The findings indicate that 3 overlapping discourses were shaping nurses' perspectives concerning the First Nations women they encountered: discourses about culture, professional discourses of egalitarianism, and popularized discourses about Aboriginal peoples. Cultural assumptions were intertwined with dominant social stereotypes and were sometimes expressed as fact even when they conflicted with egalitarian ideals. Conclusions highlight the need for strategies to help nurses think more critically about their understandings of culture, the sociopolitical context of health-care encounters, and the wider social discourses that influence the perspectives of nurses.