Kirsten Frederiksen

The process of Danish nurses’ professionalization and patterns of thought in the 20th century

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In this article, we address how the professionalization process is reflected in the way Danish nursing textbooks present 'nursing' to new members of the profession during the 20th century. The discussion is based on a discourse analysis of seven Danish textbooks on basic nursing published between 1904 and 1996. The analysis was inspired by the work of Michel Foucault, in particular the concepts of rupture and rules of formation. First, we explain how the dominating role of the human body in nursing textbooks disappears in the mid-20th century. This transformation can of course be attributed to changes in tasks and responsibilities for nurses or to the implementation of increasing amounts of knowledge and theories from other disciplines than medicine into the nurses' knowledge base. However, inspired by Foucault, we consider these historical changes to be the conditions of possibilities and not causes. The second part of the analysis shows that along with 'the disappearance of the body', a second discursive change appears: the role of doctors and medicine changes fundamentally from about mid-20th century. Finally, we argue that this discursive reorganization enabling new patterns of thought to emerge was driven by a professional interest in describing nursing as an independent profession.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNursing Inquiry
Pages (from-to)178-187
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

    Research areas

  • education, Foucault, history, professionalisation

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