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Understanding Poverty: Teaching Social Justice in Undergraduate Nursing Education

Hellman, Ann, N., PhD, MSN, RN1; Cass, Cary, BSN, RN2; Cathey, Heather, MSN, RN, FNP-BC1; Smith, Sarah, L., MSN, RN1; Hurley, Shelia, PhD, MSN, RN, MBA/HC1

doi: 10.1097/JFN.0000000000000182
Original Articles

Aim: This article presents results of an exploratory qualitative study examining gains in empathy and social justice beliefs among undergraduate nursing students.

Background: As undergraduate nursing education provides the foundation for future forensic nurses, developing successful methods to increase beliefs and behaviors of social empathy and social justice among nursing students will have a beneficial effect on the specialty of forensic nursing. As such, a team of nursing researchers explored the effects of a poverty simulation on the social empathy and social justice beliefs held by undergraduate students.

Method: The research team conducted an exploratory qualitative study of student reflective journals. Using an inductive interpretive process, the researchers performed a content analysis of student responses.

Results: The researchers identified three constitutive patterns and eight supporting themes as reflected in the students' reflective journals after participation in poverty simulation sessions.

Conclusion: This research study found that, when nursing students participate in poverty simulation experiences, they gain an increased understanding of the vulnerability and complexities of living in poverty and are motivated to both advocate for patients and become change agents.

Application: Such increases in social empathy and promotion of social justice will inevitably positively affect their future practice and inform their development as forensic nurses.

Author Affiliations:1Whitson-Hester School of Nursing, Tennessee Technological University; and 2Tenn-e campus.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Ann N. Hellman, PhD, MSN, RN, Whitson-Hester School of Nursing, Tennessee Technological University, 3789 Brookwood Drive, Cookeville, TN 38501. E-mail:

Received September 8, 2017; Accepted December 21, 2017

© 2018 by the International Association of Forensic Nurses. All rights reserved.
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