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CSDE Seminar Series

Population Research Discovery Seminars

When the Safety Net is a Nurse: Organizational Care Work in the Context of State Retrenchment

LaTonya Trotter, Associate Professor, UW Department of Bioethics and Humanities


Moderated by:

Amy Bailey, Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Illinois – Chicago




Register for Zoom Seminar HERE

12:30-1:30 PM PT


Population Health Initiative

Nursing is often called the caring profession. But for whom are they being asked to care? Whose problems are they deployed to solve? I investigate these questions primarily through the case of the nurse practitioner (NP). Conceived by organizations as “physician substitutes,” one expects that NP will be held responsible for providing the same—or fewer—services as physicians. However, I find that gendered expectations attached to the nursing profession, both internally and externally, conspire to create a different rendering of NP work that often results in a broader arena of responsibility. I find that NPs not only address a different construction of problems for patients but also make visible the unspoken problems of employers and the state. Through this case, I consider the ways in which the nursing profession has become one of many privatized responses to the shrinking of the US welfare state and explore the implications for both patients and providers.

LaTonya J. Trotter is an Associate Professor in UW’s Department of Bioethics and Humanities. Her work explores the relationship between changes in the organization of medical work and the reproduction of racial, economic, and gender inequality. Her first book, More Than Medicine: Nurse Practitioners and the Problems They Solve for Patients, Health Care Organizations, and the State (Cornell University Press 2020), questions the common view of the NP as physician stand-in, illustrating how NPs are creating new possibilities for what the medical encounter could be, while showing the depth of the crisis of care that we face.

Her publications have received awards sponsored by the American Public Health Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the American Sociological Association. She is on the editorial board of the journals Gender & Society and Contemporary Sociology, and holds elected positions within the Organizations, Occupations and Work section of the American Sociological Association and the Sociologists for Women in Sociology. She is also on the Steering Committee of the Carework Network, an international organization of researchers, policymakers, and advocates involved in various domains of care work.