Testing a theory of political development by comparing the political action of nurses and nonnurses

Donna M Wilson
Nursing Outlook 2002, 50 (1): 30-4

BACKGROUND: Some nursing theories are available to guide the conceptualization, planning, and conduct of political action. Little initial or ongoing testing of these theories has taken place.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this descriptive-comparative investigation was to test the theory of Cohen et al (Cohen SS, Mason DJ, Kovner C, Leavitt JK, Pulcini J, Sochalski J. Stages of nursing's political development: where we've been and where we ought to go. Nurs Outlook 1996;44:259-66) of political development stages through describing and comparing a specific example of political action by nurses and nonnurses.

METHOD: Semistructured interviews of persons who spoke to a standing legislative committee about a proposed bill took place after the health care issues raised by this private bill were later addressed in a government act. Qualitative inquiry was used to gain an understanding of the subjects' perspectives.

DISCUSSION: The political action undertaken by both nurses and nonnurses substantiated the first 2 of 4 theorized political stages. However, most nonnurses engaged in political action for self-interest purposes, whereas nurses were oriented to the public good. This finding provides partial support for the third stage of Cohen et al, political sophistication.

CONCLUSIONS: Nurses have consistently viewed themselves as patient advocates. It is not surprising then to see "other oriented" political activism by nurses at the community and societal level, because this is in keeping with the caring nature of nursing practice.

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