Oral Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

Echoes of silence (#6)

Sharon Laver 1
  1. Charles Sturt University-Bathurst - BATHURST, NSW, BATHURST, NSW, Australia

Communication is an integral part of nursing practice – with patients and their relatives, other nurses and members of the health care team, and ancillary staff. Through interaction with the ‘other’, language and silence creates and recreates social realities. Acceptance, rejection or modification of social realities depends on what is expressed and by whom. Narratives that are offered can tell of some experiences and not others (Clair, 1998; Moaşa, 2013). Some nurses choose to be silent while others are silenced. 

In nursing situations recognising and allowing silence to speak is a challenging but uniquely personal experience that embraces reflection in and on experiences, practice and self as a person and a professional. Silence is all at once comfortable and uncomfortable, enabling and constraining, revealing and concealing, questioning and answering in a never ending spiral of retaining and discarding, personally and professionally. Literal, epistemological and ontological silences (van Manen, 1990) echo throughout the profession.

This presentation draws on a microcosm of New Graduate Nurses’ lived experiences and expressions of silence that reflect individuals’ discomfort and private efforts to ascribe meaning to experiences that reach beyond the present to inform their future practice. If enabled and truly heard, silence can speak more loudly than the hubbub of daily practice, allowing us to collectively question and challenge inherent assumptions and biases as professionals, and as a profession. Returning to silence is to return to a constant process of professional transformation that can enable ways of knowing and being that can reform our profession from within and enable us to cast off shackles that bind us to a shameful cultural underbelly.