Power Dynamics within Icelandic Nursing: Walking the Fine Line





Health, Working Environment & Wellbeing


Like other Nordic nations, Iceland has a reputation of gender-equality, despite 98% of the country’s nursing profession being women. This paper examines power dynamics within the profession. Fifteen semi-structured interviews with nurses were analyzed with a thematic analysis. Our theoretical framework draws on an ecological perspective highlighting nurses’ vulnerability to power dynamics, and Allen’s work on organizational labor and the invisibility of nurses’ ‘glue work’. The findings reveal that the nurses experience power imbalances when their autonomy is restricted in cooperation with other professionals, demanding their time and disrespecting their professional workspace, and they miss support from their supervisors. They feel their professionalism is belittled, and that the gender imbalance hinders equality. For coping and meeting norms and expectations, the nurses use silencing, which with time pressure and unclear boundaries preserve and enhance stereotypical images. Attracting more male nurses could enhance equality, but additional effort at multiple levels is needed.

Author Biographies

Klara Þorsteinsdóttir, University of Iceland

PhD student, Faculty of Sociology, Anthropology and Folklorists. Email: kth75@hi.is

Thamar Melanie Heijstra, University of Iceland

Professor, Faculty of Sociology, Anthropology and Folklorists


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How to Cite

Þorsteinsdóttir, K., & Heijstra, T. M. (2022). Power Dynamics within Icelandic Nursing: Walking the Fine Line. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.133852