An ethnographic study examining quality of worklife issues of outpost nurses in northern Manitoba

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Martin, Donna E.
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An ethnographic study was implemented to examine quality of worklife (QWL) issues of outpost nurses in northern Manitoba. Fieldnotes were maintained during a ten day field experience to four outpost stations in northern Manitoba in 1994. One to two hour semi-structured interviews were conducted with 5 Aboriginal and 6 Non-Aboriginal outpost nurses. Transcripts and fieldnotes underwent content analysis to identify categories and themes. Findings indicated that outpost nursing was inundated with contradictions and conflicts. Outpost nurses perceived that positive worklife factors outweighed the negative ones. They found personal fulfillment in several aspects of their work. Fulfillment was a major theme comprising the following worklife categories: (1) attachment to clients; (2) learning on the job; (3) independence; (4) we do everything; (5) being the doctor; (6) variety of patient needs; and (7) providing quality care. Independence was the most significant positive worklife factor. Worklife issues that outpost nurses perceived negatively reflected a self image of powerlessness, which contained the following categories: (1) isolation; (2) working and living together; (3) inadequate preparation; (4) clients' dependence on the system; (5) massive responsibility; (6) understaffing; (7) never really off; (8) living in fear; (9) lack of support from Zone Nursing Officers; (10) conflicts with physicians; and (11) "it's very political up here." "It's very political up here," understaffing, working and living together were worklife factors that nurses perceived to strongly negatively affect their worklife. Aboriginal nurses expressed that their knowledge of First Nations language and culture enhanced their practice. Non-Aboriginal outpost nurses demonstrated scepticism over authenticity of clients' health problems. Aboriginal nurses spoke about a long-term commitment to outpost nursing; Non-Aboriginal nurses viewed outpost nursing as a short-term experience. Aboriginal nurses participated in group and community activities while their Non-Aboriginal colleagues tended to spend time off within the outpost station. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)