Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Nursing, Physican Control, and the Medical Monopoly: Historical Perspectives on Gendered Inequality in Roles, Rights, and Range of Practice

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Nursing, Physican Control, and the Medical Monopoly: Historical Perspectives on Gendered Inequality in Roles, Rights, and Range of Practice

Article excerpt

Strongly typed as a "women's profession," nursing should have obvious links to women's studies. Feminist evaluations of health care, such as the critiques of the medical monopoly within the classic feminist health text, Our Bodies, Ourselves (1998) should inform nursing critiques of health care. Women's studies should recognize nursing as one of the traditionally more lucrative fields open to women. Yet these connections between feminism and nursing remain tenuous at best, with women's studies scholars focusing on women in the male-oriented work environments of business and science, while those writing about nursing critique the medical monopoly for excluding nurses, but ignore the connections to women's exclusion elsewhere. Nursing, Physician Control, and the Medical Monopoly forms one part of a series of six books that explore the history of gender and nursing from the perspective of nursing (Group) and of women's studies (Roberts) (Roberts & Group, 1995; others pending).

This specific volume, Nursing, Physician Control, and the Medical Monopoly, considers the gendered relations between nurses and physicians, with a particular focus on how physicians use gender to achieve a monopoly over health care. Group and Roberts present a broad historical approach by using nurses' narratives (not just the physician perspectives that have heretofore defined medicine) and the history of feminism to examine the codevelopment of nurses and physicians within medicine.

Gender, not duties and tasks performed, constructs the division between nurses and physicians. Although a division between care tasks and cure tasks is often used to describe the differences between nurses and physicians, separation by gender rather than separation of tasks more accurately depicts the origin and development of the two fields. Early nursing history suggests that within the home, women performed the multiple medical tasks of both physicians and nurses. Exclusion of women from education and licensure, as well as the replacement of nurses with providers who were more directly under physician control, providers such as physician's assistants and registered care technologists, exemplify the means used by physicians and members of their national organizations (primarily men) to garner and maintain control over nurses (primarily women).

The text provides a thorough, well-researched account organized by time period with a heavy emphasis on nursing from 1970 to 2000. Most faculty will use smaller segments of Nursing, Physician Control, and the Medical Monopoly to highlight the historical influences of a particular time period. For example, chapter 1, on women's early experiences with healing, can be used to explode the myth that male physicians have always been better trained and equipped to heal than have women providers. …

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