Enlivening the Rhetoric of Family Nursing: "there, in the midst of things, his whole family listening"


  • Dianne M. Tapp Faculty of Nursing University of Calgary
  • Nancy J. Moules Faculty of Nursing University of Calgary




At the time that this study was conducted, family nursing practice in acute care hospital settings had received little attention in nursing research and theory. A hermeneutic inquiry explored nursing practices that involved families on three cardiac medical-surgical units in two hospitals in a large urban health care region in Canada. Data for the inquiry were generated through field observations with fifteen nurses and interviews with ten nurses. Nurses supported and enabled family presence in these units but demonstrated limited evidence of deliberate family assessment and intervention. Nurses espoused a familiar rhetoric that claimed that family nursing exists because of the inevitability of encounters with family members throughout daily work. Nurses wished to appear to include family members in their practice and emphasized the importance of family teaching. Still, nurses’ ability to articulate the nature of this practice was limited. Family nursing rhetoric is explored as a potentially legitimate discourse that underlies current trends influencing nursing of families, particularly the impact of early discharge and increased reliance on family members to provide care at home during early recovery.

Author Biographies

Dianne M. Tapp, Faculty of Nursing University of Calgary

Faculty of Nursing

Dean and Professor

Nancy J. Moules, Faculty of Nursing University of Calgary


Faculty of Nursing

ACHF/ACHRI Nursing Professorship in Child and Family Centered Cancer Care