Health Care's Forgotten Majority: Nurses and Their Frayed White Collars

By Jacqueline Goodman-Draper | Go to book overview

facilitate their administrative job of cutting staff to meet budget constraints and uphold their place at the wheel, steering their political authority in some directions of their own choosing.


CONCLUSION

Nurses have long been thought of as a single occupational group. This chapter should make clear that the workplace lives of modern nurses are highly differentiated. The nursing profession, along with other white collar occupations, is not one monolithic group but rather a highly segmented one, with wide variations in levels of control and autonomy.

Nurses in low class positions have little power economically, ideologically, or politically. They are white-collar employees who share the plight of the working class.

In high class positions are the administrative nurses who control their colleagues and enjoy influence outside the hospital. They share many of the powers and privileges of professionals.

Placed in a contradictory class position are middle managerial nurses. They find themselves pulled simultaneously in two directions: by forces of professionalization from above, by forces of proletarianzation from below.


NOTES
1.
As Wright states, "Contradictory class locations are variable rather than all or nothing characteristics.... Certain positions can be thought of as occupying a contradictory location around the boundary of the proletariat: others occupying a contradictory location around the boundary of the bourgeoisie" ( Wright, 1976: 74-77).

From here on, I will refer to such class positions as simply high, medium, or low, depending on their levels of control, bearing in mind that all are contradictory.

2.
Although I wanted to examine change over time in the workforces at St. John's and Mt. Zion, these data were not made available to me.
3.
Regionally, hospital unionism tends to be more concentrated in the Northeast ( New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts), on the Pacific coast ( California, Oregon, and Washington), and in the Midwest ( Minnesota and Michigan), plus Hawaii ( Miller, 1979:30).
4.
The 1985 proposal was a resolution passed by the ANA in 1965 calling for the bachelor's degree as a requirement for entry into nursing practice by 1985. Recently the ANA set 1995 as the new target date for this credentialism in nursing since the previous date has come and gone with its goal unmet ( American Journal of Nursing, 1984:832).

-86-

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