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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The risk of entering relationships: experiences from a Norwegian hospital

This article analyses how nursing students being trained in a Norwegian hospital interact and communicate with their patients - a task that seems to be one of the hardest of all for the students. Based on data from a fieldwork study, the article investigates the development of empathy among student nurses. In doing so, it addresses the concept of a social defence system developed by Isabel Menzies Lyth, who referred to a hypothetical construction describing certain features of a nursing hospital such as a high level of tension, distress and anxiety among the nurses. The findings point to the fact that the nursing students were constantly in danger of losing their focus on the relational aspect of their work; instead, they were being drawn towards an instrumental nursing style. This took place despite the conviction that 'creating a relationship' was one of the most important dimensions of being a competent nurse.