New nursing: the road to freedom?


  • Sam Porter RGN DipN BSSc Lecturer in Sociology

    1. Department of Sociology and Social Policy, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland
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The consequences that recent developments in nursing have had for the nurse-patient relationship are the concern of this paper It is argued that, by attempting to reduce the power differentials that exist between nurse and patient,‘new nursing’reforms encourage rational, rather than distorted, communication between lay and professional participants in health care encounters The significance of these developments is underlined by framing them within the theoretical framework developed by Jurgen Habermas, who argues that, because symbolic communication is a defining feature of our essential humanity, distortion of communication by means of coercive power is a denial of that humanity Conversely, rational communication is the stuff of truth, freedom and justice Empirical evidence from in-depth interviews with nurses is used to demonstrate that there have been significant changes in the nurse-patient relationship, which have led to improvements in communication and to the empowerment of patients Despite the fact that the reforms face significant obstacles, nurses can be proud of the fact that their efforts have contributed to the re-affirmation of the full humanity of people requiring health care