Mature Care and Nursing in Psychiatry: Notions Regarding Reciprocity in Asymmetric Professional Relationships

Health Care Analysis 19 (1):65-76 (2011)
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The idea behind this article is to discuss the importance and to develop the concept of reciprocity in asymmetric professional relationships. As an empirical starting point for an examination of the possible forms of reciprocity between patients and nurses in psychiatry, we chose two qualitative in-depth interviews with two different patients. The manners in which these two patients relate to medical personnel—one is dependent, the other is independent—show that this presents challenges to nurses. The theoretical context is provided by the notion of mature care as it has been developed by feminist-oriented ethics of care, in contrast to the notion of altruistic care. In relation to the concept of mature care, we discuss how nursing can be perceived in demanding relationships with patients in psychiatry. Reciprocity implies that, in principle, the interests of the nurses also matter in a nurse-patient relationship. We show that reciprocity—in practice—is complicated and challenging in a number of different ways. Mature care—with its systematic inclusion of relationships and reciprocity—provides an alternative understanding of what takes place between patients and nurses compared with an altruistic notion of care. As such, mature care can be regarded as an useful paradigm for nurse-patient relationships in psychiatry



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