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Social justice: a concept analysis


  • Kelly Buettner-Schmidt,

    1. Kelly Buettner-Schmidt BSN MS RN Assistant Professor Department of Nursing Minot State University, Minot, North Dakota, USA and PhD student Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nursing and Health Policy Doctoral Study, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
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  • Marie L. Lobo

    1. Marie L. Lobo PhD RN FAAN Professor College of Nursing University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
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buettner-schmidt k. & lobo m.l. (2011) Social justice: a concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing 68(4), 948–958.


Aim.  This article is a report of an analysis of the concept of social justice.

Background.  Nursing’s involvement in social justice has waned in the recent past. A resurgence of interest in nurses’ roles about social justice requires a clear understanding of the concept.

Data sources.  Literature for this concept analysis included English language articles from CINAHL, PubMed, and broad multidisciplinary literature databases, within and outside of health-related literature, for the years 1968–2010. Two books and appropriate websites were also reviewed. The reference lists of the identified sources were reviewed for additional sources.

Review methods.  The authors used Wilsonian methods of concept analysis as a guide.

Results.  An efficient, synthesized definition of social justice was developed, based on the identification of its attributes, antecedents and consequences that provides clarification of the concept. Social justice was defined as full participation in society and the balancing of benefits and burdens by all citizens, resulting in equitable living and a just ordering of society. Its attributes included: (1) fairness; (2) equity in the distribution of power, resources, and processes that affect the sufficiency of the social determinants of health; (3) just institutions, systems, structures, policies, and processes; (4) equity in human development, rights, and sustainability; and (5) sufficiency of well-being.

Conclusion.  Nurses can have an important influence on the health of people globally by reinvesting in social justice. Implications for research, education, practice and policy, such as development of a social justice framework and educational competencies are presented.