Devices and Desires

Gender, Technology, and American Nursing

By Margarete Sandelowski

Devices and Desires

320 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 19 illus., , notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4893-7
    Published: November 2000

Studies in Social Medicine

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Nursing and technology have been inexorably linked since the beginnings of trained nursing in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Whether or not they thought of the devices they used as technology, nurses have necessarily used a variety of tools, instruments, and machines--from thermometers to cardiac monitors--to appraise, treat, and comfort patients. Tracing the relationship between nursing and technology from the 1870s to the present, Margarete Sandelowski argues that technology has helped shape and intensify persistent dilemmas in nursing and that it has both advanced and impeded the development of the profession.

Sandelowski examines key moments in the history of nursing that dramatize the ironies of the nursing-technology relationship. She demonstrates that nurses both embraced and rejected technology in their pursuit of cultural visibility and professional autonomy--with varying amounts of success.

As one of the domains of female work historically most subject to sex segregation, Sandelowski notes, nursing provides an ideal site in which to examine the interplay of technology and gender.

About the Author

Margarete Sandelowski is Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. Her books include Pain, Pleasure, and American Childbirth: From the Twilight Sleep to the Read Method, 1914-1960 and With Child in Mind: Studies of the Personal Encounter with Infertility.
For more information about Margarete Sandelowski, visit the Author Page.


"A perceptive analysis of the nurse/technology relationship, exposing the gendered assumptions underlying nurses' work with machines and equipment. . . . This book should be read by historians of technology and medical and nursing historians. [It] offers a distinctive context of contemporary health care and covers women--nurses--who receive little attention, despite their status as one of the largest groups of women workers."--American Historical Review

"This book brings together Margarete Sandelowski's work on technology/nursing relations in a sustained historical and cultural analysis in order to explore nursing, gender and technology studies."--Nursing Inquiry

"A first-rate book that anyone interested in health care should be familiar with. . . . Devices & Desires can help set standards for health professionals who wish to use their own experience to illuminate historical issues. . . . Sandelowski is a fluent writer and an erudite and sensitive scholar. . . . Know this book; use it to broaden your own and your students' perspectives in all these areas."--Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"Through her nuanced account of the complex and unintended consequences of technological change, Sandelowski expands and deepens our understanding of both nursing and technology."--Technology and Culture

"In Devices and Desires, Margarete Sandelowski uses a different lens--the world of medical technology--to explore the issue of gender and nursing. This brilliant book shows just how much the 'charitable, devotional and altruistic' image of the nurse conceals."--Nation

"[A] unique exploration of the impact of technology on nursing care."--Choice