This paper explores the implications of Michel Foucault's philosophical analyses for understanding nursing practice. Foucault describes power within a given society as unfolding not through large-scale events but rather through a complex 'micro-physics'. Power operates upon the human body. With the increasing use of observation, in understanding both the natural and social world, the body has become the subject of the 'gaze'. The body as object, however, is neither a universal belief nor truth but a product of ways of perceiving and examining it. In relation to nursing, the subjection of the body to the 'gaze' and the practices of the institutional environment of the hosptial are important for understanding the knowledge formulated. The power of practice is in the generation of knowledge. The nature and form of knowledge is instrumental in establishing the quality of nurse-patient relationships. This paper explores,through the particular exemplar of the patient in intensive care, the power of present practices to shape knowledge, and thereby dictate and limit the quality of the nurse-patient relationship.
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Originally published as Henderson, Amanda (1994) Power And Knowledge In Nursing Practice: The Contribution Of Foucault. Journal of Advanced Nursing 20(5):935-939. Copyright 1994 Blackwell Publishing. All rights reserved.