New methods of researching healthcare facility users: the nursing workspace


Vol. 6 No. 2 (2009)
Research Articles
December 7, 2009


This study is entitled Embodied Professionalism: The relationship between the physicalnature of nursing work and nursing space. The analysis is based in a critical examination of existing approaches, assumptions, and attitudes in the research literature about who, what, and how to study the person-environment relationship in healthcare facilities. New methods of studying how nurses experience their work, their workplace and the objects in their workspace are needed in order to address important issues of this person-environment relationship. Nursing work is re-conceptualized asembodied professionalism which acknowledges the interconnections between the physical labor ofprofessional nursing work, time, and space. This is a qualitative case study of nursing activities on a surgical unit that are invisible, marginalized, and unaccounted for in the research literature. Instead of studying how nurses' efficiency and productivity could be increased through design interventions, this study examines the physical nature of nursing work and the physical setting from the nurses' perspective. Instead of viewing the healthcare facility as solely a place for healing, this approach views the healthcare facility as a place for working. A nurse's goal can simply be the desire to ‘get the workdone.' A qualitative research methodology and a mixed method approach is used in this study. The methods include structured interviews, location mapping, photo-documentation, architectural inventories, place-centered behavioral mapping, and focused observations. In order to get a better understanding of how nurses experience their workspace, an image-based visual research method, theexperiential collage, was designed. The findings from using these methods reveal the significant rolethat the physical activities of moving, searching, and recovering play in gaining insights into nurses' socio-spatial experience of the nursing workspace.