Dissertation Abstracts

Towards a Sociology of Nursing: An ethnography in Chile.

Author: Ayala, Ricardo A, RicardoAlexis.AyalaValenzuela@UGent.be
Department: Sociology
University: Ghent University, Belgium
Supervisor: Piet Bracke; Raf Vanderstraeten
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Professions , Ethnography , Systemic theory , Healthcare
Areas of Research: Professional Groups , Health , Work


Based on extensive primary resources, this ethnography constructs the nursing profession in Chile as a sociological object of study and elucidates the underlying structures, ideologies and devices used in the making of contemporary nursing. Nursing as a profession has long been researched from the standpoint of nurses, and yet social matters relevant to its construction, its implications and repercussions are a rather emerging interest. In fact, the prime mover of this research is the critique to the professions introduced in the 1980s sociological literature, as professions relate to one another in a systemic or ecological relation, competing for territory (jurisdiction), clientele, status and rewards. The way the professions are interrelated highlights that profession building is as much technical a process as it is social, and thus through its evolving nature it benefits some occupational groups while depriving others. This perspective enabled an exploration of the nursing profession in interaction with environing occupations, drawing attention to the dynamics of class relations, gender stratification and self-ascribed ethnic identities, permeating on one hand the structuring of the healthcare system, and on the other hand the internal functioning of nursing. Studying nursing as an ecological entity also seemed useful to overcome structural approaches, not only for gaining an understanding of how interrelatedness occurs, but also for comprehending adaptations to and exchanges with the organisational ‘landscape’ in which nursing tasks and roles take place. The research has a theoretical affinity with a framework conceiving society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change: Whereas dominant categories of occupational groups strive to protect their privileges, disadvantaged groups attempt to gain more egalitarian benefits. This view was brought into the analysis of the professions, informed largely – though not exclusively – by the social closure theory of Larson, the systemic theories of Abbott, and the notion of ownership of knowledge developed by both Larson and Collins. In this way thus, beneath this ethnography lies a purpose that is ultimately political.