Barrett’s Power Theory and Change in Nursing

There are many ways of how to use power in the field of nursing. Barrett offers to determine it as a possibility to participate in organizational change knowingly. According to her theory of power as knowing participation, awareness, choices, freedom to act intentionally, and the involvement in creating change are the main dimensions of power (Barrett, 2015). The author does not identify the exact order of these concepts because their priorities may vary in different settings. Barrett (2017) also explains the disadvantages of nursing theories and frameworks. Therefore, each theory must involve a chance to improve the quality of life (Chinn & Falk‐Rafael, 2015). The chosen theory proves that nurses should be aware of what they choose and feel free to take a new step with a number of grounds for change being gathered (Chang et al., 2016; Macoskey & Dunn 2017). Barrett (2015) names these worldviews as power-as-control (where hierarchies and determinations play a role) and power-as-freedom (where causality has a meaning). Without awareness, no positive results of change can be achieved. People have to create new realities and use power as a tool to reach their goals.

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I think that Barrett’s theory has to be studied in nursing schools and colleges as it can be used not only as a chance to understand individual power but also as an opportunity to learn about power in groups where nurses have to work. Every group may have its size, purpose, and composition. As it is hard to organize different people following one standard, it is possible to use this theory of power as knowing participation and make sure that all participants are ready to work and use their knowledge. Though this theory has a complex structure and a number of concepts being used simultaneously, as soon as a nurse learns the basics, it can be easily applied to the chosen setting. Knowledge can be gained and developed in multiple ways. Therefore, participation with awareness is the key to success for many nurses.

For example, a group of nurses is informed about coming changes in handout processes and the necessity of weekly reports and their obligatory participation in these activities. Instead of using Lewin’s theory of change or Maslow’s motivation theory, these nurses are welcome to rely on the basics of Barrett’s theory and get prepared for any change with a possibility to improve their awareness and participate willingly and knowingly. They have to read recent journal articles and control their results. At the same time, they should follow their free will and set deadlines regarding their own needs and possibilities. This theory helps to control and never forget about freedom. In addition, nurses should want to share their opinions and experiences in organizing handouts and writing reports. Such involvement of the theory can focus on the information that helps nurses achieve positive outcomes and understand what kind of information should be exchanged. As a result, nurses combine the characteristics of the two theories and develop new skills and abilities.

To conclude, I would like to state that the theory of power as knowing participation introduced by Barrett has a number of benefits. They include the possibility to prepare nurses for various changes and improve their level of knowledge regarding the situations and settings offered. At the same time, such shortages as a complex framework of the theory and a number of concepts being used simultaneously may prevent some participants from using this theory as the basis for change. Awareness and change are the key figures in healthcare organizations, and this theory is a chance to learn their worth and the ways of their possible combination and application.


Barrett, E. A. M. (2015). Barrett’s theory of power as knowing participation. In M. C. Smith & M. E. Parker (Eds.), Nursing theories and nursing practice (4th ed.) (pp. 495-508). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis Company.

Barrett, E. A. M. (2017). Again, what is nursing science? Nursing Science Quarterly, 30(2), 129-133.

Chang, S. J., Kwak, E. Y., Hahm, B. J., Seo, S. H., Lee, D. W., & Jang, S. J. (2016). Effects of a meditation program on nurses’ power and quality of life. Nursing Science Quarterly, 29(3), 227-234.

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Chinn, P. L., & Falk‐Rafael, A. (2015). Peace and power: A theory of emancipatory group process. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 47(1), 62-69.

Macoskey, C., & Dunn, D. J. (2017). Essential oils and gastroparesis. Holistic Nursing Practice, 31(6), 393-399.

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