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'Unequal partners? The experiences of fathers during their children’s stay in hospital' (Sue Higham)

ABSTRACT Unequal partners? The experiences of fathers during their children’s stay in...

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Martin Robb
22 July 2010

ABSTRACT

Unequal partners? The experiences of fathers during their children’s stay in hospital

Sue Higham

In this paper I shall present findings from an ethnographic study into the experiences of fathers of children who are admitted to a general children’s ward. Children’s nursing and paediatric medicine are predominantly female professions. As there is evidence that fathers report discomfort in female dominated services (Doucet 2006, MacDonald and Hastings 2010), I sought to examine fathers’ experiences in the predominantly female environment of a children’s ward.

Children’s nurses claim to practice family-centred care in which care is centred on the needs of the whole family and to work in partnership with parents to care for the sick child. The origins of these approaches to care can be traced back to Bowlby’s early work on mother-child attachment.

 I will argue that family-centred care is in fact a gendered practice; nurses practice mother-centred care in which the father’s value is as a substitute for the real thing and have limited insight into fathers’ experiences.

I will suggest that fathers experience maternal, institutional and structural barriers to partnership in care of their sick children in hospital.

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