Kari Martinsen’s name is not very well known in the United States. At the same time, in her native Norway and in Scandinavian countries in general she is considered one of the most important experts on clinical nursing and the theory of care. Her works, opinions and views have played a considerable role in building the current Scandinavian theory and practice of nursing, which is noticeably different from Gilligan’s Anglo-American tradition. And there are reasons why her philosophy – for she considers her approach to nursing and care to be nothing short of a full-fledged philosophy – is so popular in her native country and starts to spread across the ocean (which was further facilitated by the publication of the English translation of her book Care and Vulnerability in 2006).
One of the main goals and principles of Martinsen’s philosophy is the idea that care and caring should be an all-pervading sentiment not only in nursing but in medicine in general. In other words, she opposes the idea that nurses should care while doctors cure – both parties should take equal parts in both processes. A new ‘gaze’ should be developed, a new way for doctors to view their patients – instead of a dehumanizing and analytical approach common in modern hospitals.
That being said, it is one of the major ideas in Martinsen’s philosophy that the very concept of hospital should be reworked and altered. Hospital should be perceived as a dwelling – a place where people are invited to dwell, live and spend time, a place where they feel just as home as they feel among the members of their family. Again, in this she opposes a traditional, production-based approach, in which hospitals are perceived and built as purely commercial buildings, places where patients are analyzed, processed and worked on to change them into something else.
According to Martinsen’s view, these are not just two different approaches to a single problem – they are two different approaches to life in general. Her approach views patients as human beings, as individuals with dignity in and of themselves. A traditional approach reduces patients to their diseases and conditions, takes away their humanity and sorts them into categories.
The idea of compassion, the view that every human being is unique and deserves to be loved and cared for is what makes Kari Martinsen and her philosophy so popular now, when we see the resurgence of humanistic approaches in medicine – and it is likely that we are going to hear more about her in the years to come.
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- Martinsen, Kari. Care and Vulnerability. Oslo, Norway, 2006. Print
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