Title. Being and doing politics: an outdated model or 21st century reality?.
Aim. This paper presents a discussion of how critical social theory can be used as a tool for research, reflection and exploration of the political role of the nurse.
Background. Sociological theory can be used to examine ideologies within nursing systems in order to contribute to the future development of the profession. The importance of critical social theory has been identified in the literature as being directly relevant to holism which is central to the nature of nursing.
Data sources. Texts published in English were identified from 1990 to 2008 using the keywords critical social theory, community nursing, political advocacy, social justice, sociological theory, health inequalities, health democracy, equity and inequality.
Discussion. Critical social theory can be used as a tool to highlight ethical ways to practise nursing. One reason for examination of the community nurse’s political role is a shift in focus from the individual as patient to communities experiencing health inequalities. Nursing needs to decide whether the profession will work at the political level, and where advocacy and citizenship are located within a community role.
Conclusion. Nurse educators must prepare nurses for political participation, and nurse managers need to focus on national and local contexts in order to encourage policy analysis and community engagement within nursing practice. An understanding of critical social theory can aid decision-making in relation to global and local policy, enable the nursing profession to respond to social injustice, and permit nurses to work with communities in the pursuit of community health.