"The Pure Guidelines of the Monastery Are to be Inscribed in Your Bones and Mind" Dogen (2010, p. 42): Mental Health Nurses'™ Practices as Ritualized Behaviour

  • Graham McCaffrey University of Calgary
Keywords: Buddhism, hermeneutics, mental health, nurse-patient relationship, ritual


Forms of practice among nurses on acute care mental health units present a way of revealing how different traditions and values are in play between nurses and also within nurses.  This paper represents one interpretive theme from a larger, hermeneutic study of nurses’ experiences of nurse-patient relationships on acute care mental health units, using Buddhist perspectives as a resource for interpretation of interviews with nurses. Understandings of ritual in the Zen Buddhist tradition and Catherine Bell’s (2009a) concept of ritualized behavior enabled an interpretive analysis of nurses’ activities as the expression and reflexive reinforcement of underlying traditions, values, and beliefs. In particular, nurses’ preferences among ways of relating with patients evinced contrasting background traditions of confinement and therapeutically directed engagement.


No hermeneutic work belongs wholly to its author, and I wish to acknowledge Dr. Shelley Raffin-Bouchal, my doctoral supervisor, and Dr. Nancy Moules, who was a very active member of my supervisory committee for all their guidance and support in conducting the study from which this paper emerged.

A version of this paper was presented by the author at the Canadian Hermeneutic Institute, Halifax, Nova Scotia, May 23, 2012.




Author Biography

Graham McCaffrey, University of Calgary

Assistant Professor

Faculty of Nursing


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