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Developing Political Competence: A Comparative Study Across Disciplines

Authors


Address correspondence to Joanne Rains, Indiana University East, 2325 Chester Boulevard, Richmond, IN 47374. E-mail: jrains@indiana.edu

Abstract

Political activism is one way that nurses care for individuals and communities, and intervene in the broad range of socioeconomic factors influencing health. Though policy advocacy is a core public health function and a valuable nursing activity, the process of acquiring requisite skills and attitudes for political involvement is not often explored. What crucial experiences enfranchise nursing students toward future policy involvement? What is the student journey toward political competence? Do nursing students vary from students of other disciplines in this process? In-depth interviews were conducted with baccalaureate nursing students and political science students who were near graduation. Content analysis of interview transcripts revealed several themes. Despite rich examples of activism, nursing students viewed public policy as a barrier, and did not see connections between the personal, professional, and political. Nursing seemed grounded in application and service, demonstrating by involvement that they could “walk the walk.” Political science involvement originated in theory, and resulted in more articulate discourse on the subject: they could “talk the talk.” The data suggest a need for interdisciplinary dialogue, faculty modelling of political competence, opportunities for students to realize personal, professional, and political connections, and a concern of socialization in the context of global citizenship.

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