Public Health Nurse Perceptions of Empowerment and Advocacy in Child Health Surveillance in West Ireland


  • Teresa Cawley,

    1. M.A., B.S.N. (Hon.), H.Dip. (Hon.), Occupational Health Safety & Hygiene, Diploma in Life and Business Coaching, Certificate in Orthopaedic Nursing (Hon.), R.G.N., is Regional Training and Development Officer (Child Health), Health Services Executive, County Sligo, West Ireland
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  • Patricia Mannix McNamara

    1. Ph.D., M.A., G.Dip., B.Rel.Sc., is Codirector of the Research Centre for Education and Professional Practice, University of Limerick, County Limerick, Ireland.
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Teresa Cawley, Health Service Executive, 2nd Floor, JFK House, JFK Parade, Sligo. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Objective: The objective of this study was to analyze public health nurses' perceptions of empowerment and advocacy within a child health screening and surveillance program in West Ireland.

Design and Sample: This study combined both qualitative and quantitative research methods. A purposive sample of 9 public health nurses (PHNs) (phase 1) participated in 2 focus groups and a purposive sample of 43 clients attending the child health screening service completed a questionnaire (phase 2).

Measures: Focus groups and Questionnaires were used.

Results: Thematic content analysis revealed that PHNs in the study did not perceive themselves to be empowered in their work. They attributed this to workload, lack of professional advocacy, and restricted access to power and opportunity, while also identifying the need for continued managerial support and feedback.

Conclusions: The results suggest that PHNs need to be empowered in order to facilitate client empowerment. PHNs struggled with empowerment and client advocacy. There is a need for professional development for PHNs in order to support them to more critically engage with empowerment and self-efficacy in their work. This needs to be done within organizational structures that support PHNs to critically analyze the role of advocacy and empowerment in their practice.