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Theory of Social Justice in Nursing


Our current featued article is titled “Emancipatory Nursing Praxis: A Theory of Social Justice in Nursing” by Robin R. Walter, PhD, RN, CNE.  In the short video below, Dr. Walter shares what she sees as the important take-aways from her study.  I hope you will not only view the video, but also download this article from the ANS website, then return here to share your comments and ideas related to her work!

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. lovely explanation of process of nurses engaging in the important political work of social justice – now on to reading the article:)

    August 8, 2017
  2. How is nursing’s role in social justice different from the role of public health in social justice? Public health, to me, seems to have a much more clear-cut connection to social justice. And if nursing as a profession should return to its roots in social justice (if, indeed, it really has its roots in social justice), how does basic nursing education need to change?

    August 8, 2017
    • ROBIN WALTER #

      I agree that nurses practicing in the public health arena are more aware of several dimensions of social justice (e.g., health disparities, the social determinants of health (SDH), cultural implications of health, etc.) than nurses practicing in other specialty areas. It has been argued that all practicing nurses should have this baseline of understanding, especially regarding the SDH. Often, pre-licensure student nurses are not getting this information; arguably, due to the fact that it is not tested on NCLEX. They are also taught the role of advocate to the exclusion of the role of ally. These roles function differently, with the role of ally being directly- and, I would argue, solely- tied to social justice endeavors. Nurses need to know both roles, since it can be argued that (1) advocacy alone has had limited success in redressing health disparities; and, (2) advocates often work within the oppressive social structures that allies seek to dismantle.

      August 11, 2017
  3. Wendy Doremus #

    This is an eye-opening perspective. I would love to be able to read the article – is there a full text link that we can access? Thanks so much. Wendy Doremus, RN, MS, NP-BC, PHNA-BC.

    August 8, 2017
    • Yes. While the article is featured you clan Dow load it – follow the link in the title above!

      August 8, 2017
  4. I commend the author for a crucially relevant GT study beginning with nurses who have engaged in emancipatory actions. How people succeed in developing this capacity yields different influencing factors than does studying what people say about the “barriers” to why they don’t engage in this. “Itm not political”. Or ” I see both sides” are privileged excuses for promoting the status quo. Chinn & Kramer prefaced this kind of work when they defined emancipatory knowing as epistemologically legitimate, even required for nursing.

    A limitation of focusing on the general term social justice is that it does not project that specific disparities exist in particular contexts. While postmodernism, critical theory, etc are discussed as too analytical, in fact the authors return to Marxism and use the term deconstruction, and thus one cannot escape that critical deconstruction is necessary to become an ally. The ally role is not explored in depth here, but it is excellent to have identified that allyship is different from advocacy, which keeps the hierarchy in place by ” speaking for”. That said, sometimes allyship requires speaking for, but stemming from emancipatory dynamics.
    Allies not only need to listen and learn from the marginalized person or group. Allies use their privilege ( and realize we have many marginalized nurses among us!) in the service of the others’ goals. Allies do not expect their patients to educate them, but actively educate themselves about the specific oppressive situations of their patients, and populations. I believe much can be learned about the ally role from LGBTQ literature about it.

    I understand the framework was symbolic interactionist and pragmatic because GT was the method. These are fairly apolitical viewpoints on relationality. Allyship requires the critical, emancipatory, partisan mindset. To end health disparities we must concretely align ourselves with those who suffer the most intense inequalities, and are at greatest risk. For example, trans women of color, young Black males, people abusing opioids, –in short, we must name names, and in just considering these groups, it is apparent the would be ally nurse must educate themselves about the specific constraints and unequal treatment at play. So it is inescapably a political stance to be an ally.

    It would be interesting to compare the process discovered in this study with writings in the critical theory, feminist and post colonialism about consciousness-raising, because the referents groups have developed techniques for fostering this awakening. Those techniques, many now decades old, may provide a basis for structuring emancipatory development into nursing education. Thank you for an excellent study, and thoughtful discussion.
    Joanne Hall

    August 14, 2017
    • ROBIN WALTER #

      Thank you for this eloquent response. You raise important points that beg further discussion. The philosophical tenets of SI and pragmatism, as you identified, underpinned the study design by necessity. That said, as the study progressed, other philosophical dynamics- more closely related to the phenomenon- emerged. Postmodernism and Post-structuralism are foundational paradigms in understanding ally identity development and social justice engagement. Deconstruction and reconstruction are key activities in both processes. The initial research did not explore these; they became apparent after considerable reflection on the work. The study also raised unanswered (and unaddressed) questions about epistemic injustice- how we devalue/marginalize the Other as ‘knower’… but that’s a topic for another discussion. And yes, yes, yes…the LGBTQ community is leading the way from theory to action!

      I am very grateful for your affirmation that, moving forward, we must distinguish the role of advocate from ally. Both roles are needed precisely because they *are* different. Your comment on when allies are involved in “speaking for” made me think about how it is the allies’ responsibility to enlighten others in the Agent group, reaffirming your point that it is not the Target group who should be responsible for this. (Deconstruction at its best: This puts a whole new meaning on what it means to ‘speak for’!) It also made me think about the depth of reflexivity that *must* occur in developing as a social justice ally. It is far more extensive than that required of advocacy— allyhood is transformational; advocacy is transactional. R. Walter

      August 14, 2017
      • Agree. Recent events and especially the visibility and actions of White (male) Supremacists underscores the importance of your work. Jo

        August 17, 2017
  5. The most important thing about nursing is to be full of enthusiasm and love. This is a sacred knowledge.

    January 14, 2018

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Theory of Social Justice in Nursing – Nurse Chatter
  2. Theory of Social Justice in Nursing — ANS: Advances in Nursing Science Blog | Site Title

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