Language and Experience
What does a “good” nurse need to know? How does (s)he acquire this knowledge? Can all the knowledge required to nurse people be acquired by theoretical study alone? If so, this knowledge must be susceptible to formulation in a scientific language. Experienced nurses, however, stress that the ability to “see” unusual symptoms and developments in the condition of their patients is an ability which can only be acquired from direct experience and with practice. Thus, although a scientific language may engender greater respect for the nursing profession than it currently enjoys, one runs the risk of placing greater value on the knowledge which can be expressed in precise theoretical terms than the knowledge discussed in an everyday language or that which simply manifests itself in actions. A great deal of nursing knowledge is passed on in a kind of master-apprentice relationship; the experienced nurse teaches the less experienced nurse to “see” unusual symptoms or changes in a patient’s health. Many nurses emphasize how important this period of apprenticeship was to them at the start of their professional careers. In seeking to design expert computer systems for nursing care, advances in technology should therefore take seriously ethical values integral to the profession such as the “experience”, “devotion” and “patience” of which Florence Nightingale wrote.
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