THE TIME FOR NURSING ACTIVISM
Given the global, social, political, and environmental climates of our time, and the many threats inherent in social determinants of health, the urgency for nurses to step up and let our voices be heard, and our leadership be exerted, to do all things possible on behalf of human health and well-being. I know from personal encounters that there are nurses who believe that nurses and nursing organizations should remain disconnected from politics, but this perspective is rapidly evaporating as the urgency becomes more and more clear with each passing day. In fact, it is becoming clear that when nurses do step up and speak up, we bring vitally important perspectives to the table, and our voices count in significant ways in the long term.
Politics is the process of enacting certain values in a social context. There is no organized entity, and no person who can remain disconnected from that which is political. Not speaking up, and not taking a stand, is in itself a political act that renders a “vote” for the status quo. Clearly, not everyone can or will or should enter “politics” in a formal way as an elected or appointed public official. But everyone actually does perform political acts each and every day—we make choices about what we purchase from whom, what we read, who we listen to, and how we spend our time. Each of these acts reveals the values that we are enacting. The communities in which we live and work shape, and are shaped by, our words and actions. In a very real way, we are political.
People who are nurses also have a certain privilege, ability, and knowledge that place us on a stage to enact values related to health and well-being and to influence the collective actions that shape health and well-being in our communities. Even when nurses believe they are not “political,” by virtue of being a nurse and interacting with others as a nurse, they are contributing to the political landscape of the communities in which they live and work.
Activism is the act of taking that influence one step further—taking informed, deliberate actions to bring nursing values into the public sphere in ways that challenge the status quo that threatens human health and well-being. Activism is never motivated by the desire for fame or fortune. In fact, activist nurses typically think of what they are doing as simply doing what needs to be done in order to improve the health and well-being of people who need what nurses can offer. When nurses take their insights and knowledge into a public sphere by speaking and writing in venues that reach a broader public, they broadcast ideas grounded in nursing values. When nurses conduct research and publish their findings, their ideas have a significant influence wherever nurses practice, teach, or engage in forming professional and public policy. When nurses join together, either in formal organizations or as informal networks of support, the potential for change that promotes and protects health and well-being multiplies exponentially.
In this issue of Advances in Nursing Science (ANS), 2 articles focus specifically on the context of crime and justice, where simply engaging with these issues as nurses is a significant form of activism. All of the articles you will find here reflect a commitment to nursing perspectives that emphasize the values of health and well-being. We invite you to follow the ANS blog at https://ansjournalblog.com/, where we feature each of the articles and publish messages authors provide that describe their work and ways in which their ideas emerged. We welcome your responses, contributing to the discourses that inform nursing knowledge, and, ultimately, nursing actions that contribute to our communities.
—Peggy L. Chinn, PhD, RN, FAAN