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How “care values” as discursive practices effect the ethics of a care-setting

Jeannine Therese Moreau (School of Nursing, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada)
Trudy Rudge (Susan Wakiil School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 28 August 2018

Issue publication date: 2 October 2019



This paper examines how certain care values permeate, legitimize and authorize hospitalized-older-adults’ care, technologies and practices. The purpose of this paper is to expose how values are not benign but operate discursively establishing “orders of worth” with significant effect on the ethics of the care-setting.


The paper draws from a discursive ethnography to see “up close” on a surgical unit how values influence nurse/older-adult-patient care occasions in the domain of older-adults and functional decline. Data are from participant observations, conversations, interviews, chart reviews and reviewed literature. Foucauldian discursive analytics rendered values recognizable and analyzable as discursive practices. Discourse is a social practice of knowledge production constituting and giving meaning to what it represents.


Analysis reveals how care values inhere discourses like measurement, efficiency, economics, risk and functional decline (loss of capacity for independent living) pervading care technologies and practices, subjugating older adults’ bodies to techniques, turning older persons into measurable objects of knowledge. These values determine social conditions of worth, objectifying, calculating, normalizing and homogenizing what it means to be old, ill and in hospital.


Seven older adult patients and attendant nurses were followed for their entire hospitalization. The ethnography renders visible how care values as discursive practices rationalize the social order and operations of everyday care. Analytic outcomes offer insights of how dominant care values enabled care technologies and practices to govern hospitalized-older-adults as a population to be ordered, managed and controlled, eliding possibilities of engaging humanistic patient-centered care.



Moreau, J.T. and Rudge, T. (2019), "How “care values” as discursive practices effect the ethics of a care-setting", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 298-311.



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