The nature of mental health nurses' knowledge
There is a need to develop a clear understanding of the knowledge used by mental health nurses in day to day practice. Knowledge relating to holistic/therapeutic activities form the basis of mental health nurse education, however various studies have consistently shown the majority of mental health nurses activity relates to administrative and routine tasks and containment. This disparity between the knowledge bases prescribed, those described and the inability of education reforms to resolve such inconsistencies suggests other influences are at work. Concepts of power and knowledge figure largely in the evolution of nursing per se and mental health nursing in particular. Michel Foucault proposes that power forms knowledge and produces discourses. A body of knowledge is not formed by a `subject who knows' but rather through the processes and struggles that transverse that subject. Thus mental health nurses do not produce a regime of knowledge but rather power relations inscribe on the nurse and sustain forms/domains of knowledge. To gain access to these inscribed knowledges two approaches are adopted and integrated - Genealogy and Q-methodology. Genealogy provides a detailed account of the power relations surrounding mental health nursing and the knowledge bases programmed by these. These power relations are evident in the discourses concerning mental health nursing generated by psychiatrists, `nursing in general', and society. The Qmethodology facilitates the identification of subjectivities in relation to the knowledges inscribed on mental health nurses. The knowledges programmed by the power relations and evident within the subjectivities relate to mental health nurses' regimes of practice as `doctors' assistants', `controller of patients, environment and self, and `therapeutic activities'. It is proposed that mental health nurses' knowledge is task orientated, related to `knowing how' to do things rather than the `knowing that' of evidence based practice.