Authors: Dr. Brian Crosbie, PhD.
School of Health and Related Research
Faculty of Medicine, University of Sheffield
The aim of this thesis is to explore nurses’ understanding of technology in the intensive care unit. The study brings together empirical data gathered from nurses’ practice in the ICU environment, along with theoretical insights from science and technology studies, to illuminate how nurses’ understanding informs their use of technology in their care activities. The empirical data was gathered through intensive fieldwork over a period of 5 months in an ICU department within a large teaching hospital. In addition, recorded in-depth interviews were carried out with ICU nursing staff. The interviews uncover themes such as nurses’ practice with technology; nurses’ ambivalence around the use of technology in relation to patient care; and nursing identity and professional status. Current theories of technological determinism, social essentialism and technology-in-practice within science and technology studies are examined for their usefulness in illuminating the world of ICU nursing research. In particular, Actor-Network Theory, as an example of technology-in-practice, is utilised as a theoretical lens to explore the contingent nature of social and technological relations on the ICU, where nurses’ understanding of technology emerges as an effect of multiple associations between human and non-human actors. The thesis informs existing research by offering further empirical insight into the ICU world through in depth analysis of the semiological and material qualities of technology in the ICU, and develops a number of conceptual themes such as ‘balancing patients,’ ‘chasing numbers’ and the ‘technology vigil’ to frame nurses’ understanding of technology. The study also adds insight into the construction of nursing identity, suggesting it is an emergent property of nurses’ interactions with technology. The thesis concludes by indicating that knowledge of how nurses understand, use and frame their identity in relation to technology can inform current research into technology adoption and diffusion in healthcare environments.
Keywords: Nurses’ Understanding, Health Technology, Intensive Care Unit