Hypervisible Nurses: Effects of Circulating Ignorance and Knowledge on Acts of Whistleblowing in Health

ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 2020 Apr/Jun;43(2):114-131. doi: 10.1097/ANS.0000000000000311.


Whistleblowing has been examined from various angles over the past 40 years, but not yet as a matter of epistemology. Whistleblowing can be understood as resulting from the improper transmission of critical knowledge in an organization (eg, knowledge about poor care or wrongdoing). Using the sociology of ignorance, we wish to rethink whistleblowing and the failures it brings to light. This article examines how nurses get caught in the strategic circulation of knowledge and ignorance, which can culminate in acts of whistleblowing. The sociology of ignorance helps understand how whistleblowing is borne out of the complex and strategic circulation of knowledge and ignorance that spells multiple and intersecting epistemic positions for nurses. In particular, various organizational blind spots position nurses as untrustworthy and illegitimate speakers in the "business" of the organization. Organizational failings therefore remain concealed while nurses become hypervisible, both as faulty care providers and as problematic information brokers.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Employee Discipline / ethics*
  • Ethics, Nursing
  • Humans
  • Nurses / psychology
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Professional Competence / standards
  • Truth Disclosure / ethics*
  • Whistleblowing / ethics*