Power and empowerment in nursing: three theoretical approaches
Definitions and uses of the concept of empowerment are wide-ranging: the term has been used to describe the essence of human existence and development, but also aspects of organizational effectiveness and quality. The empowerment ideology is rooted in social action where empowerment was associated with community interests and with attempts to increase the power and influence of oppressed groups (such as workers, women and ethnic minorities). Later, there was also growing recognition of the importance of the individual’s characteristics and actions. Based on a review of the literature, this paper explores the uses of the empowerment concept as a framework for nurses’ professional growth and development. Given the complexity of the concept, it is vital to understand the underlying philosophy before moving on to define its substance. The articles reviewed were classified into three groups on the basis of their theoretical orientation: critical social theory, organization theory and social psychological theory. Empowerment seems likely to provide for an umbrella concept of professional development in nursing.