April 9, 2020

Autonomous Participation in Nursing Culture

Earlier this week, I mentioned the idea of autonomous participation in culture as an important aspect of pluralism in general. I believe that a deep ideological pluralism is possible in the health care role known as nursing. Further, the road to that pluralism must be traveled by nurses who live as autonomous agents.

What does autonomy mean in this context? The term autonomy is derived from the notion of self-governance. Therefore, ideological pluralism in nursing implies that participants within the profession make culture-relevant contributions to the ongoing way of life of nursing.

To say that individual nurses are autonomous suggests that they are capable of originating their respective contributions. Their contributions are not coerced, even by a power majority.

The value of diversity in ethnic, racial, and religious terms extends to gender as well. Much of the conversation about gender diversity in nursing seems to focus on the proportion of nurses in various settings who are male. So we ask how many men are enrolled in or graduate from nursing programs within a given time frame. Or we ask about the proportion of male nurses to the profession as a whole on various geographic scales or in specific professional roles.

This is for good reason, of course. We need to be able to characterize the field, and that requires data, both quantitative and qualitative data. It just happens that the former may be easier to come by on this leg of the journey.

I mentioned power majority. As minority groups have urged us repeatedly to understand, power majorities are all too often homogenizing influences. They often prescribe and enforce a particular way of living to the detriment of minor traditional cultures and their special interests. In this vein, they often seek out and destroy the safe niches in which minority individuals reside.

Aside from any other group membership, as a man engaged in the work of nursing, I believe there are scenarios we men in nursing face regularly that obstruct the development of deep pluralism in our profession. Many of these situations lead to reduced resiliency within nursing, and we men need to establish a professional identity and presence to counteract such negative results.

Whether you’re a man or woman in nursing, I’d like to know what your experiences have been in the area of autonomy among nurses and other health care professionals. Have you encountered any difficult situations? What success stories have you seen? Please share them in the comments section.

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