Explaining why nurses remain in or leave bedside nursing: a critical ethnography
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Explaining why nurses remain in or leave bedside nursing: a critical ethnography

Paula Mahon Post doctoral fellow, Department of Occupational Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Gladys McPherson Assistant professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Aim To describe the application of critical ethnography to explain nurses’ decisions to remain in or leave bedside nursing, and to describe researcher positioning and reflexivity.

Background Enquiry into hospital nurses’ decisions to remain in or leave bedside nursing positions has been conducted from a variety of theoretical perspectives by researchers adopting a range of methodological approaches. This research helps to explain how work environments can affect variables such as job satisfaction and turnover, but provides less insight into how personal and professional factors shape decisions to remain in or leave bedside nursing.

Review methods A critical theoretical perspective was taken to examine the employment decisions made by nurses in a paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

Data sources Data was collected from nurses (n=31) through semi-structured interviews and unobtrusive observation.

Discussion The authors describe critical ethnography as a powerful research framework for enquiry that allowed them to challenge assumptions about why nurses remain in or leave their jobs, and to explore how issues of fairness and equity contribute to these decisions.

Conclusion Critical ethnography offers a powerful methodology for investigations into complex interactions, such as those between nurses in a PICU. In adopting this methodology, researchers should be sensitised to manifestations of power, attend to their stance and location, and reflexion.

Implications for practice/research The greatest challenges from this research included how to make sense of the insider position, how to acknowledge assumptions and allow these to be challenged, and how to ensure that power relationships in the environment and in the research were attended to.

Nurse Researcher. 22, 1, 8-13. doi: 10.7748/nr.22.1.8.e1271



Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 05 August 2013

Accepted: 04 November 2013

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