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Disciplining virtue: investigating the discourses of opioid addiction in nursing

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discourse, ethics, professional regulation, rehabilitation, substance abuse

Abstract (summary)

Two nurses diagnosed with opioid addiction launched legal action after being found guilty of unprofessional conduct due to addiction‐related behaviors. When covered by the media, their cases sparked both public and legal controversies. We are curious about the broader discursive framings that led to these strong reactions, and analyze the underlying structures of knowledge and power that shape the issue of opioid addiction in the profession of nursing through a critical discourse analysis of popular media, legal blogs and hearing tribunals. We argue that addiction in nursing is framed as personal choice, as a failure in the moral character of the nurses, as decontextualized from addiction as disease arguments, and as an individualized issue devoid of contextual factors leading to addiction. Our investigation offers a critical case study of a nursing regulatory body that upheld popular assumptions of addiction as an autonomous, rational choice replete with individual‐based consequences – a framing that is inconsistent with evidence‐based practice in health‐care. We put forth this critical interrogation to open up possibilities for counterdiscourses that may promote more nuanced and effective responses to the issue of addiction in nursing.

Publication Information

Kunyk, D., Milner, F. M., & Overend, A. (2016). Disciplining virtue: Investigating the discourses of opioid addiction in nursing. Nursing Inquiry, 23(4), 315-326. doi: 10.1111/nin.12144


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