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The good, the bad and the therapeutic: psychiatric nursing care in film Open Access


Other title
Nurse Patient Relationship
Relational Ethics
Visual Research
Psychiatric Nursing
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Webster, Cheryl
Supervisor and department
Austin, Wendy (Nursing)
Examining committee member and department
Ipperciel, Donald (Arts, Campus Saint-Jean)
Cameron, Brenda (Nursing)
Sobsey, Dick (Education)
Forchuk, Cheryl (Health Sciences, University of Western Ontario)
Paul, Pauline (Nursing)
Faculty of Nursing

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The media is an important information source regarding psychiatric nursing care. There has been limited English language research that has specifically explored the nurse-patient relationships that were depicted in film between psychiatric nurses and the people for whom they cared. Using an interpretive visual inquiry method, fifteen films were selected and analyzed using a relational ethics framework. The films were: Cosi (Joffe, 1996), Frances (Clifford, 1982), Girl, Interrupted (Mangold, 1999), Gothika (Kassovitz, 2003), Harvey (Koster, 1950), High Anxiety (Brooks, 1977), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman, 1975), Persona (Bergman, 1966), Snake Pit (Litvak, 1948), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Cameron, 1991), The Caretakers (Bartlett, 1963), The Cobweb (Minnelli, 1955), The Jacket (Maybury, 2005), The Sleep Room (Wheeler, 1998), and Titicut Follies (Wiseman, 1967). The roles of the nurses were described using Peplau’s (1952/1988) role descriptions. These included the roles of stranger, resource person, teacher, leader, surrogate, counsellor, consultant, tutor, safety agent, mediator, administrator, recorder, observer, and researcher. Exemplars were drawn from the films to discuss each of the following relational ethics themes: mutual respect, engagement, embodied knowledge, environment, and uncertainty. Two primary discourses were found embedded within the relational ethic themes: otherness and power/control. Within these discourses, sub-discourses relating to stigmatization, prejudice, domination, and marginalization were also found. Nursing must be attentive to the messages contained within the depictions of psychiatric nursing care. Nurses can no longer afford to be silent; as these images have consequences for the patients, their families, and the nurses working in this complex specialty area.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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