Nursing in Times of Neoliberal Change: An Ethnographic Study of Nurses' Experiences of Work Intensification

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The aim of this article is to analyze how nurses respond to and act upon neoliberal transformations of work. The article identifies and explores those transformations considered by my informants, nurses working in public sector hospital wards, as central to changing conditions of work and experiences of work intensifications. It further analyzes nurses’ responses toward these transformations and locates these responses within a particular form of femininity evolving from rationalities of care, the working conditions within the organization, and experiences of care work, studied here through a class and gender informed analysis of care work and work intensifications. By using ethnographic data to explore issues of work intensification in the public sector, the article contributes to a deepened understanding of effects of welfare state transformation on care workers, as well as continuities and change in processes of exploitation and worker adaptation involved in the everyday production of welfare services.

The article is organized as follows. First, I will describe changes in the Swedish healthcare sector, focusing on New Public Management (NPM). In the succeeding section I outline the analytical frame of the article, focusing on gendered aspects of the conditions of labor processes in public sector care work. I then go on to describe the methodology. The remaining part of the article is an analysis based on an empirical study of ward nurses and their experiences of changing working conditions in a Swedish hospital.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Work Sciences


  • gender, nursing, Swedish healthcare, work intensification, care work, emotional labor
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-35
JournalNordic Journal of Working Life Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch

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