Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Webster, Fiona

2nd Supervisor

Garnett, Anna


There have been numerous theories put forward by nursing theorists on the importance of caring in nursing. Very few studies have looked at the impact that this association has on the practice of nursing. This study will add to the existing literature by using a Foucauldian discourse analysis to examine the material effects that the caring discourse has on nurses’ ability to advocate for safe working conditions during a public health emergency. Using the outbreak of COVID-19 in Ontario, Canada in the Spring of 2020 as a context, this study seeks to establish caring as a discourse and examine how that discourse may impede nurses’ ability to protect themselves from harm. The results of this analysis explicate how public media discourses that position nurses as caring, altruistic, and heroic may have impacted their ability to maintain their personal safety as a result of the expectations put upon the nursing profession.

Summary for Lay Audience

Caring is often discussed both within and without the nursing profession, but it remains an ill-defined concept. There is an historical association between the idea of caring and nursing, but the impacts on the actual practice of nurses has not been examined extensively. A discourse analysis offers a mean to look critically at this association by tracing the evolution of the idea throughout the literature for fixed period of time. This project is important for the nursing profession as the impact of this discourse on the nursing profession has not been examined and helps to bring to light how the general public’s ideas about caring and the nursing profession may be shaping the profession to this day. Using the outbreak of COVID-19 as a context, this study seeks to determine if the association of the discourse of caring with the nursing profession may have impacted the safety of nurses in Ontario, Canada to advocate for safe working conditions, during the early stages of the pandemic. This study seeks to add to the existing body of knowledge by demonstrating how the effects that ideas such as caring can impact nurses directly and materially.

Included in

Nursing Commons