The Problems of Nursing Activism


The whole healthcare system was created to help and protect people. Social justice is considered as a primary value for healthcare providers and, therefore, for nurses (Drevdahl, 2013). Social activists put their efforts to the system changing and development to make it more community-orientated and fair. It could be stated that in present times, nursing activists have different opportunities to change various factors of social injustice, in particular, regarding the problematic of euthanasia.

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The Problems of Nursing Activism

Social justice principles should be the basis on which the whole system is built; they should determine how people are treated, what decisions are made, and how resources (human and financial) are distributed among the members of the community (Drevdahl, 2013). Unfortunately, nowadays, the healthcare system is more individuals-orientated.

The majority of nursing studies provides knowledge and develop practical skills but does not focus on nurses’ role in healthcare policies development. Nurses’ education does not provide particular approaches that can address factors of social injustice in the healthcare system. Moreover, considering the current situation with nurses’ low income and level of work pressure, it is difficult to expect them to organize and participate in social movements (Drevdahl, 2013). However, despite all the problems and barriers, nursing activism exists and can influence current social problems.

Nursing Activism Regarding the Question of Euthanasia

Nowadays, the question of euthanasia legislation and ethics is significant. Cases of Howe and Schiavo are representative for this problematic (Mason, Leavitt, & Chaffee, 2013). In both cases, patients’ family members prevented euthanasia despite the fact that Mrs. Howe was, probably, suffering from pain, and Mrs. Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state and did not have chances to recover. Both patients’ care requires financial and human sources for years which, in another case, might be provided to other patients who needed them more. It could be stated that these cases are an example of social injustice.

Information Sharing

In these particular cases, nurses could do nothing to improve the situation, except for communicating with patients’ relatives and making efforts to change their mind. It is known that nurses are closer to patients and their families than physicians because they spend more time with them providing healthcare procedures (Francke, Albers, Bilsen, de Veer, & Onwuteaka-Philipsen, 2016). Therefore, nurses are more influential and can find a right approach to people. Perhaps, it is possible to extrapolate this statement on the whole society. It could be supposed that nurses’ efforts to share the information about the euthanasia legislation and reasons for it might be efficient. Therefore, knowledge sharing is one of the possible nurses’ activities.

The Participation in the Decision-making Process

In the society, a widespread opinion that euthanasia is used just for the purpose of saving government money exists. People are afraid that physicians often do not have enough reasons for euthanasia and patients still have chances to recover or require more time to spend with close people. People do not trust the decision made only by physicians. Therefore, it is important to involve nurses in the decision-making process (Francke et al., 2016). It might increase the level of public trust and simultaneously make the process more humanistic and based not only on medical parameters but also on nurses’ professional opinion about a patient’s state. Thus, involvement in decision making could be considered as the second possible nurses’ activity.


It could be concluded that nursing activism is important for changes in the healthcare system. Nurses are active participants of the healthcare system; they spend more times with patients and their families. Therefore, they can influence people’s opinion according to different social issues, including the actual question of euthanasia. On the one hand, nurses can share information and affect the public opinion about this problematic. On the other hand, it is important to involve nurses in the decision-making process because they spend more time with a patient and can provide additional data about one’s state. Thus, nursing activists have their opportunities to improve the situation for the benefit of the society.

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Drevdahl, D. J. (2013). Injustice, suffering, difference: How can community health nursing address the suffering of others?. Journal of Community Health Nursing, 30(1), 49-58.

Francke, A. L., Albers, G., Bilsen, J., de Veer, A. J., & Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B. D. (2016). Nursing staff and euthanasia in the Netherlands. A nation-wide survey on attitudes and involvement in decision making and the performance of euthanasia. Patient Education and Counseling, 99(5), 783-789.

Mason, D. J., Leavitt, J. K., & Chaffee, M. W. (2013). Policy and politics in nursing and healthcare – Revised reprint (6th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders.

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