The objectives of this study were to give voice to the lived experiences of nurses and law enforcement officers (LEOs) who interact with one another in acute hospital settings and to interpret and understand their unique perspectives and experiences.
This qualitative study employed interpretative phenomenological analysis in the interviews of registered nurses and LEOs. The analysis and discussion was underpinned by biopolitical theories of power and control, including Georgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, and Erving Goffman.
There is a paucity of literature on nurse and law enforcement interactions in the hospital setting. Nurses and law enforcement exerted power and authority through several means. Overwhelmingly, participants described a contentious dynamic between nurses and LEOs in the hospital, wrought with argument, stress, and a feeling of coming from “different worlds.”
The results provide alarming examples of deformed caring practices and assert the necessity for continued unearthing and discussion of how nurses can, and should, navigate law enforcement interaction. The tangible interference of care is of particular importance and consideration for nurses. Inequity in care and unfavorable outcomes for already marginalized and vulnerable populations are of grave concern. Additional research is needed on the specific ways this struggle for power between institutions and their political actors impairs caring practices and the emotional and psychological sequelae of these interactions.