Nurse ActivismA Repository of Resources, Theory, and Tools for the Engaged Nurse
A Call to Activist Action!
The Official Call
National organizations, such as the Canadian Nurses Association identified social justice as a priority for nursing practice and education, with a focus on the foundational values of cultural respect, collaboration, equity and capacity building at jurisdictional, national, and international levels (Canadian Nurses Association, 2003 ).
Nursing Code of Ethics
More than Sheer Rhetoric
As well, the Code of Ethics that informs nursing in Canada and other countries includes a provision related to social justice. “Nurses uphold principles of equity and fairness to assist persons in receiving a share of health services and resources proportionate to their needs and in promoting social justice.” (CNA, 2002, Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses, p. 8).
Furthermore, nurses are expected to “be aware of broader health concerns such as environmental pollution, violation of human rights, world hunger, homelessness, violence, etc. and are encouraged to the extent possible in their personal circumstances to work individually as citizens or collectively for policies and procedures to bring about social change, keeping in mind the needs of future generations” (p.15).
The Role of the Nurse
Societal change and successful activism is often the result of careful planning and skilled management. Theory developed on this kind of change is often categorized as planned or managed change theory. Nurses can become visible and efficient agents for planned/managed change and avid activists, both in healthcare and society at large.
“Indeed, these are changing times in health care, but they are also exciting ones if nursing chooses to be proactive in its response to these changes at the individual and organizational levels. Creativity will be needed to provide new solutions to problems. Let us look at these changes as opportunities to influence decisions in our organizations. Will you choose to be reactive or proactive?” (Simon, 1999, p. 1).
Change requires a great deal of flexibility and the ability to adapt. Nurses act both as change agents and as supporters/advocates who assist people to adapt to the myriad of changes that affect their lives. They also participate in influencing social and organizational change on many levels. Since stress is a natural outcome of any situation that requires adaptation or change, nurses also serve as buffers, agents, teachers, and guides in moving through times of change in a healthy way.
Nurses are in a unique position to facilitate new development both as activists and agents of change themselves, and as guides/advocates for individuals, groups and communities working for change and social justice. Nurses can be key change agents to spearhead new and innovative projects for the provision of advocacy for various health and social issues, and the people affected by these issues.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Dr. Margaret Mead