Gendered Healthcare Hierarchies, Ethics and Information Systems

Minna Salminen Karlsson did a very interesting seminar last week from the DISA research project. It was based on the doing gender perspective. The starting point was that we all behave in a spectrum with femininity and masculinity. In this way of looking nursing is coded as more feminine. And computer science is coded more as being masculine. These two communities also have two ways of looking at the world, and they are very different.

For example: Technical rationality dominates the computer science way of looking at the world, whereas nursing is more based on caring ethics. One difference in their world views is that technical rationality is bases on linear time view, whereas nursing care can be circular, parallel to other things and not always linear. Minna Salminen Karlsson also mention several other interesting differences.

Some assumptions that computer scientists often make when designing the system is hence:

  1.  “Expecting autonomous individuals with linear time”. However, nurses the nurses document at the end of the day and the system is not built for this. Nurses instead do many things in parallel.
  2.  “Obstructing a holistic view of patients = patients are a sum of their conditions.” The summary of the diagnoses is not useful for nurses, since it is built on the idea that all diagnoses are equally important and a part of the summary.

The abstract of her talk was the following:

The hierarchy of healthcare is gendered. This matters in the acquisition and implementation of information systems. The issues in and consequences of implementation of IS in healthcare can be better understood if they are seen as influenced by relationship between technology, as something that is mostly “done” by men (e.g. developers) and care, that is mostly “done” by women (e.g. nurses), in a (societal) context where technology is valued higher than care, and where the digitalization of healthcare is pushed forward by perceived economic imperatives. This is exemplified by analyses of the data collected for the DISA project (The effects of digitalization on nurses’ work environment), using theories of gender in organizations and the concept of ethic of care.

We are looking forward to hearing more about this interesting research!

Åsa Cajander

Professor at Uppsala University
Åsa Cajander the research leader of the HTO research group. She is Professor of Computer Science with a Specialization Towards Human-Computer Interaction at Uppsala University.

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