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Time to Disable the Labels That Disable: The Power of Words in Nursing and Health Care With Women, Children, and Families

Alex, Marion MN, CNM, RN; Whitty-Rogers, Joanne MN, RN

doi: 10.1097/ANS.0b013e31824fe6ae
Health & Human Rights

Nursing is grounded in communication with others, yet rarely are the words critiqued. Despite an ethical call to honor diversity, promote empowerment, and to do no harm, some of the language used in health care reflects historical prejudices, reductionism, and/or the overarching authority of medical or moral models. This article exposes some of the “harsh words” nurses sometimes unconsciously use, and it suggests alternatives. Influenced by an ethic of social justice and the ethic of relationship with others, an attempt will be made to explore nursing language with women and children. Implications for nursing philosophy and practice will be discussed.

School of Nursing, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Correspondence: Marion Alex, MN, CNM, RN, School of Nursing, St. Francis Xavier University, PO Box 5000, Antigonish, NS B2G 2W5, Canada (

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

Copyright © 2012 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.