Nurses and Empowerment: Empowering and Being Empowered
Nurses and Empowerment: Empowering and being Empowered
One of the many issues concerning the profession of nursing is the concept of empowerment. This concept can be looked at from two different levels in reference to nurses, from the level of nurses empowering the client, and from the level of nurses being empowered by their environment (Lewis & Urmston, 2000). Empowerment in general is best defined by its absence from the situation. An absence of empowerment would mean powerlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, dependency, and feeling a loss of control over ones life situation (Lewis & Urmston, 2000). Empowerment is a positive concept, which focuses on strengths instead of weaknesses, rights instead of needs, and abilities instead of deficiencies (Gibson, 1990). Being a process as well as an outcome, empowerment lets individuals and groups gain mastery and control over their life situations (Gibson, 1990). Client Empowerment in Nursing
Nurses in the field of client care come across empowerment in the context of nurse and client relationships many times over their career. In these situations it is the job of the nurse to help the client become empowered. As with becoming healthy, clients must empower themselves, as the client has the maximum impact on their life and health (Kuokkanen & Leino-Kipi, 2000). Nurses can only help, by creating a sense of client self-worth, and supporting the process by providing knowledge (empirical, aesthetic, ethical, personal), and skill. (Dam & Nyatanga, 2002). A nurses goal in a client empowering situation, is the well-being of the client, except in this situation the mindset is not “I must get the patient to regain health”, the mindset is, “I must help the client regain health” with this mindset the nurse enters into a collaborative relationship with the client, where the client plays the part of an equal partner and, an active (receiving/giving information) participant in regaining health (Kuokkanen & Leino-Kipi, 2000). The active participation of the client in regaining health, and creating a client- nurse setting, is a advancement of client empowerment from the traditional passive patient, nurse-patient setting, where the client would be on the receiving end of the relationship, and depend entirely on the care-giver to help him/her regain health (Dann & Nyatanga, 2002). In a nurse-client relationship however, power is shared, there is mutual respect, trust, equality, and understanding of client health-care needs (Dann & Nyatanga, 2002). The nurse does not simply take over and assume what is right for the client, but participates in a collaboration of ideas, views and opinions. The final decision (after being appropriately informed about the positive and negative of a situation) is left to the client, unless the client is unable to make his or her decisions (Gibson, 1990). In order for mutual understanding to take place there must be self-awareness on the part of the nurse (Gibson, 1990). The nurse must be aware, about personal values, views and opinions, but also realize that the client as an individual also has personal values and opinions, which must be recognized, and respected. The nurse must care about the client, (and therefore properly inform the client about the situation) but the nurse must also know when to step back and respect the clients’ decision as well informed and thought out, this helps avoid value conflicts and promotes open mindedness (Gibson 1990). Some hurdles, which nurses must overcome, to better facilitate empowerment within a nurse-client relationship, is to first and foremost replace the word ‘patient’ with ‘client’. Using ‘client’ instead of patient brings the client to the same status of the nurse in the relationship; it also replaces the image of the patient who was confined with the “sick role” (being dependent on care giver), with the image of an active participant in the...
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