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Creatures of the night: Investigating nursing ghost stories

journal contribution
posted on 19.11.2019, 00:00 by Margaret Mcallister, Donna Brien
Within nursing, rituals serve important cultural functions. Daily bed-making, for example, helps to convey the importance of order; and reciting the Nightingale Oath when a student graduates signifies their transition to the professional role. Nurses working at night –on the so called ‘graveyard shift’ – engage in actions that both create a sense of security and build identity. One such ritual is the sharing of ghost stories. From the ghosts that haunt the nurse-centric narratives of horror films such as The Ward (2010), Sick Nurses (2007) and Fragile (2005), to real life ghost stories told by nurses, these unsettling, frightening ghost stories exemplify quintessential features of the Gothic. These stories are shocking, supernatural and unexplainable – particularly when set in hospitals, because their plotlines and characters often draw upon painful or terrifying medical procedures, confinement in unhomely spaces, and hypervigilant and controlling (or, conversely, unaware and callous)nurses and doctors, whose specialized medical knowledge can be mystifying and unnerving. This investigation explores the eerie nature of these tales, rituals around their telling and modes of dissemination. Following Spooner’s (2007) suggestion that such an analysis can deepen awareness of hitherto unrecognised or unarticulated anxieties, this text also explores how professional nursing identity is shaped through the ritualized telling of ghost stories

History

Volume

6

Issue

1

Start Page

1

End Page

19

Number of Pages

19

ISSN

2324-4895

Peer Reviewed

Yes

Open Access

No

Era Eligible

Yes

Journal

Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies