Political activism is often understood as a series of confrontational actions meant to eliminate existing obstacles (social, political, economic, etc.) in order to achieve activists’ goals. Thus, there is a misconception of activism as a militant public protest. However, nonviolent actions caused by political responsibility of citizens make a more lasting difference than picketing, marches, speeches, and rallies.
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The first step a citizen can make to contribute to political activism is to get involved in peaceful political processes that shape the image of the community: e.g. he/she can participate in community meetings, have a say in decision-making at his/her workplace, address various needs of the community as a volunteer, without pursuing personal goals, etc. There is now a tendency of shifting the focus from political movements calling for armed actions to peaceful home-oriented activities, such as organizing better housing, dealing with pollution issues, approaching educational problems, etc. In general, it is overcoming divisions and arguments in approaching common interests that makes the greatest contribution to political activism of this or that community.
The issue and the problems connecting with it are basically the same in the sphere of health care provision. The idea of political involvement often evokes negative associations and causes nurses to back out from becoming a part of the political arena. Despite this, the history of nursing provides a lot of examples of nurses’ direct actions that can be called political in their nature. Florence Nightingale was the first nurse activist of 1800s who was credited with assisting the Army as an administrator and councilor in health care issues. Her advocacy is still applicable in the present-day nursing practice (Blais & Hayes, 2016).
The current movement promoting political consciousness in nursing was launched by the IOM when the report To Err is Human was released. It introduced the issue of patient safety and emphasized the significance of nurses’ role in its improvement. Other examples demonstrating political engagement include the activities of various professional organizations such as CMS, the Joint Commission, AHRQ, ANA, and NQF. They develop safety goals and quality assessment tools, do research, and collaborate with other governmental bodies in their efforts to improve existing standards (Blais & Hayes, 2016). Besides, the reports regularly published by these organizations include the information about the quality of health care procedures, costs of services, deficiencies of nursing staff, etc. This raises problems of nursing theorists and practitioners to the national level as they become linked to governmental incentives (including projects funding) (Blais & Hayes, 2016).
However, if nurses do not want to participate in direct political activities, they can still influence the political process in many indirect ways without being engaged in legislation making: e.g. they can regularly update their knowledge of the current laws, voice their attitudes on the internet or in person, become members of professional organizations, advance health policies, improve their work environment with recent technologies, research ethical dimensions of health legislation and propose changes, etc. (Blais & Hayes, 2016). Their participation in teamwork, application of evidence-based processes, collaboration with other health care providers, patients, and their families contribute to the overall political activism of nurses as such an attitude allows to set new standards, develop technologies, and solve problems of quality at the global level.
Thus, we can draw a conclusion that the issue of political activism is applicable in all spheres of social life including nursing practice. As a citizen and as a nurse, one can participate in both direct and mediated political processes. It is crucial to remember that actions influencing other citizens (or patients) are political in their nature no matter if they concern legislation or its practical implementation.
Blais, K., & Hayes, J. S. (2016). Professional nursing practice: Concepts and perspectives. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
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