On the bullshitisation of mental health nursing: a reluctant work rant

Mckeown, Michael orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0235-1923 (2023) On the bullshitisation of mental health nursing: a reluctant work rant. Nursing Inquiry . ISSN 1320-7881

[thumbnail of AAM] PDF (AAM) - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 25 August 2024.


Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/nin.12595


This discussion paper offers a critical provocation to my mental health nursing colleagues. Drawing upon David Graeber’s account of bullshit work, work that is increasingly meaningless for workers, I pose the question: is mental health nursing a bullshit job? Ever-increasing time spent on record keeping as opposed to direct care appears to represent a Graeberian bullshitisation of mental health nurses’ work. In addition, core aspects of the role are not immune from bullshit. Professional rhetoric would have us believe that mental health nursing is a therapeutically beneficent occupation organised around ideals of care and compassion and providing fulfilling work for practitioners. Yet, there are some key characteristics of the experience of mental health nursing work that afford alternative judgements on its value and meaningfulness. Not least of these is the fact that many mental health nurses feel quite existentially unsettled in the practise of their work and many service users do not recognise the professional ideal, especially when compelled into increasingly coercive and restrictive services. In this context, Graeber’s thesis is explored for its applicability to mental health nursing with a conclusion that many aspects of mental health nursing work are commensurate with bullshit but that mental health care can possibly be redeemed from bullshitisation by authentically democratising reforms. Engaging with posthumanist ideas, this exploration involves a flexing of aspects of Graeber’s theory.

Repository Staff Only: item control page