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Nurse Educator:
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Teaching Social Justice

Fahrenwald, Nancy L. PhD, RN

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Abstract

Social justice is a core nursing value and the foundation of public health nursing. Social justice ideology requires nursing students to uphold moral, legal, and humanistic principles related to health. As such, teaching social justice requires a basis in moral developmental theory. In addition, teaching social justice demands action beyond classroom pedagogy. The author describes how social justice is taught within a baccalaureate program. A social justice project is described and examples are provided.

Social justice implies that there is a fair and equitable distribution of benefits and burdens in a society. 1 Specific to health, examples of societal benefits include access to prenatal care, clean air, and culturally competent healthcare providers. Health-related burdens include the cost of healthcare and disease- or injury-related morbidity and mortality. Socially just actions are directed at balancing these health-related benefits and burdens for all members of society. Kneipp and Snider 2 acknowledge the implications of social justice for professional nurses. These authors specify that nurses often practice in a duality, working in a market justice healthcare system while embracing the value of social justice for the people, groups, and populations for whom they provide care.

The value of social justice is espoused in the American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics with Interpretive Statements, 3 yet nurses continue to tolerate disparities in health status and healthcare, especially as they exist in minority and vulnerable populations on national 4 and international levels. 5 It is imperative that nurse educators address the gap between students’ understanding of social justice and choosing socially-just actions that improve the health of vulnerable populations.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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